1 Jul 2015

Islamic State kill at least 70 in Egypt

At least 70 people die in a coordinated attack by Islamic State militants in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula. Lasting several hours, the assault targets several military checkpoints.

Today’s attack is the second high-profile attack to happen in Egypt this week. On Monday, Egypt’s prosecutor was killed in a car bombing in Cairo as he left his home.

Islamic State’s affiliate in Egypt claimed responsibility for today’s attack in Sinai via its twitter account.

The army said five checkpoints were attacked by about 70 militants and that soldiers had destroyed three 4×4 cars fitted with anti-aircraft guns. It is not yet clear who exactly has been killed. Security sources said at least 36 people, including soldiers, policemen and civilians were killed as well as 38 militants.

The army spokesman first said 10 soldiers were killed or wounded and 22 attackers were killed. He later added that the number of deaths had increased on both sides.

Doctor Osama el-Sayed of El-Arish General Hospital in the provincial capital said 30 bodies had been brought in, “some of whom were wearing army fatigues”.

The killings come after Islamic State urged its followers to escalate attacks during the holy month of Ramadan which started in mid-June.

Today’s attack took place in northern Sinai – southern Sinai is a popular destination for tourists visiting the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh.

Insurgent activity

Insurgents in northern Sinai are trying to bring down the government in Cairo. Their activity has increased after Mohamed Morsi, a member of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood group, was removed from power in 2013 by the the then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. There had been mass protests against Mohamed Morsi who became president after Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power during Egypt’s Arab Spring in 2011.

Hundreds of alleged Muslim Brotherhood supporters have been sentenced to death in recent months and ex-president, Mohamed Morsi, and other senior Brotherhood figures have also been given the death penalty.

President Sisi has said that following the killing of prosecutor Hisham Barakat he would bring in stricter legal measures to deal with security threats.

Sinai is mostly demilitarized under the terms of a 1979 peace agreement with Israel under which the Israelis withdrew from the peninsula that they captured during the Six-Day War in 1967.

The Israelis have agreed to Egypt tackling militants in Sinai and an Israeli official has said there could be further deployments following the attack today.