An al-Qaeda-inspired group based in the Sinai Peninsula has claimed responsibility for bringing down an Egyptian military helicopter in the lawless desert region.

A military spokesman said Saturday the aircraft crashed, without giving a cause or the number of the crew.

Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, or the Champions of Jerusalem, in a statement posted late Saturday on militant websites said it shot down the helicopter with an anti-aircraft missile over the town of Sheikh Zuweyid close to the border with the Gaza Strip.

Another poster on the same forum, which jihadist groups typically use to make announcements, said authorities had recovered the bodies of five crewmembers. He gave what he claimed were their names and ranks, as well as a photo of an alleged pilot.

Violence in Sinai has increased since the military toppled President Mohammed Morsi in July 2013 following demonstrations by millions calling for him to leave office. Several al-Qaeda-inspired militant groups have stepped up attacks on security and military targets in the peninsula. The Egyptian military has responded with intensified operations to eliminate the militants and their sanctuaries in the lawless desert area.