Police in the northern Sinai peninsula foiled an attempt to assassinate the Egyptian army’s chief of staff, Sedki Sobhi, on Saturday, according to reports in Egyptian and Palestinian media.

The would-be assassins planted a quarter-ton barrel of TNT at the airport in el-Arish ahead of a tour of a military facility in the area, the reports said.

The barrel was reportedly discovered and safely detonated before Sobhi’s arrival.

The restive Sinai region has in recent years been the site of fierce battles between Egyptian security forces and Islamist insurgents.

Last week, an Egyptian army brigadier general and a colonel were killed in a raid on a jihadist hideout.

The Islamist insurgency has escalated since the military’s July 3 ouster of Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi and subsequent crackdown on his supporters.

Militant attacks have spread from the Sinai, with dramatic bombings in several Nile Delta cities and Egypt’s capital, Cairo, largely targeting military and police.

Authorities accuse Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood of helping militants find new ground in the northern Sinai peninsula, a claim Morsi and the group deny.

AP and AFP contributed to this report.