A newspaper close to the Egyptian government says the Islamic State-linked group that attacked troops in the Sinai Peninsula on Wednesday used sophisticated weaponry, including Russian-made Kornet anti-tank missiles.
In a graphic on its front page Thursday, el-Watan daily says the attackers also used mortars, anti-aircraft guns and other guided missiles.
An Egyptian security source told The Times of Israel the fighters used a massive supply of anti-aircraft missiles in the first hour of the attack, forcing the Egyptian army to respond with F-16 fighter jets rather than Apache helicopters.
The attack, which included a wave of suicide bombings and assaults on security installations by dozens of militants, was Sinai’s deadliest fighting in decades. Security officials said dozens of troops were killed, along with nearly 100 attackers.
Newspapers led their front pages with the attack, with many describing it as a “war.” Graphic photographs released by the military showed the bodies of extremists killed in the fighting who were wearing combat fatigues.
The military also released a photo showing weapons captured during the attack, including a few older anti-tank missiles.
Militants took over rooftops and fired rocket-propelled grenades at a police station in Sheikh Zuweid after mining its exits to block reinforcements, a police colonel said.
The Islamic State group said its jihadists surrounded the police station after launching attacks on 15 checkpoints and security installations using suicide car bombers and rockets.
“This is war,” a senior military officer told AFP on Wednesday. “It’s unprecedented, in the number of terrorists involved and the type of weapons they are using.”
One car bomb attack against a checkpoint south of Sheikh Zuweid killed 15 soldiers.
Troops regularly come under attack in the Sinai, where jihadists have killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers since the army’s overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
IS said the assault had involved three suicide bombers. “In a blessed raid enabled by God, the lions of the caliphate have simultaneously attacked more than 15 checkpoints belonging to the apostate army,” it said in a statement.
Following the Wednesday morning assault, Egyptian sources told Arab-language media that the situation was “100 percent under control” by Wednesday night. But warplanes resumed strikes against IS positions into the early hours of Thursday, security officials said.
The violence came two days after state prosecutor Hisham Barakat was assassinated in a Cairo car bombing, the most senior government official killed in the jihadist insurgency.
The Sinai attacks were the most brazen in their scope since jihadists launched an insurgency in 2013 following the ouster of Morsi.
AFP contributed to this report.