Two police and soldier gunned down in separate Sinai attacks
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Two police and soldier gunned down in separate Sinai attacks

Gunmen ambush policemen in el-Arish, raid army checkpoint in city, injuring six

Egyptian army soldiers patrol in an armored vehicle, backed by a helicopter gunship, during a sweep through villages in the northern Sinai Peninsula, Egypt, in May 2013. (AP)
Egyptian army soldiers patrol in an armored vehicle, backed by a helicopter gunship, during a sweep through villages in the northern Sinai Peninsula, Egypt, in May 2013. (AP)

EL-ARISH, Egypt — Gunmen killed two policemen and a soldier in Egypt’s northern Sinai on Monday, officials said, in the latest attack to hit the volatile peninsula.

The assailants ambushed the policemen on their way to work in the provincial capital of el-Arish, wounding a third officer and speeding away by car, a security official said.

Gunmen also attacked army checkpoints in the city and nearby town of Sheikh Zuweyid, wounding a total of five soldiers and a civilian, a military official said. One of the wounded soldiers later died in a military hospital, he added.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s official news agency MENA said gunmen opened fire on the el-Arish post office late Sunday, wounding a 14-year-old girl. Two roadside bombs targeting army vehicles exploded on the main road to el-Arish, it also reported, but there were no casualties.

Attacks on Egyptian forces have surged in northern Sinai since the military ousted the country’s former Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, in July. In response the military launched its largest offensive against militants in years in the area.

The army says militants have killed more than 100 policemen and soldiers since then. The deadliest attack took place Aug. 19 when unidentified gunmen pulled 25 police conscripts off minibuses and shot them dead on the side of the main road linking the border town of Rafah to el-Arish.

While the military says it is only targeting militant hideouts in northern Sinai, security officials have not commented about alleged civilian deaths in the operations. Few journalists have direct access to what is happening in the area because of security restrictions, forcing many to rely on official statements.

Earlier this month, a statement purportedly released by the Sinai-based Islamic militant group Ansar Jerusalem said a military attack had killed seven civilians, among them four children, in Sheikh Zuweyid. The group’s statement, posted on militant websites, also included gruesome images of the dead children, some with serious head injuries.

In a case that highlights the volatility of the situation, an Egyptian journalist is being tried in a military court on charges of spreading false information about the army’s operations there. Freelancer Ahmed Abu-Draa, a local resident, stands accused of lying about the army for saying it attacked mosques and was relocating families.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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