Islamic State claims attack that killed 8 Egyptian policemen in Sinai

Jihadists boast of two simultaneous assaults on police checkpoints in el-Arish as Muslims mark Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr

An explosion during an attack on an Egyptian police checkpoint  in el-Arish, north Sinai, Egypt, on January 9, 2017. (Islamic State Group in Sinai/AP)
An explosion during an attack on an Egyptian police checkpoint in el-Arish, north Sinai, Egypt, on January 9, 2017. (Islamic State Group in Sinai/AP)

The Islamic State group claimed an attack that killed eight Egyptian policemen in the restive Sinai Peninsula on Wednesday, as the country marked the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

“Islamic State fighters this morning launched two simultaneous attacks on two police checkpoints in the city of el-Arish,” said a statement released by the jihadist group’s propaganda wing, Amaq.

It claimed that ten policemen were killed in the two attacks; one at a checkpoint south of el-Arish and another at a second checkpoint in a “nearby area.”

It said the twin operation was designed to “divide” the attention of security forces and give militants enough time to pull back before reinforcements arrived.

The country’s interior ministry said eight Egyptian policeman were killed in an attack on the northeastern region, a hotbed of a years-long insurgency by militants, some linked to IS.[0]=68.ARAzM6q6OxqEm_eIq-NkIFsAOLF2ufHasz3O87BFWbLdw9VVsAKlJWOSoXKYPAuOtq3a2AEnQL0g2hAtiXH-jp867l31TAZWLF6z_RpYBuqmWnDsX-q4s-6E7S6MlWi7vDdkBW5z4evOOn4l80ZCWkwk6v3iyjfUtlDXco9jIRfaoCr7WP7vGk5KP74HTtHGpo3-mO2Z1kaObweKQKYYvt8uGONbiz-UYWDkWJHPE6ol7QjcoZsSjB3WGJbbz3bobiSdgF8zkM0RXZDWtsRutQqidVKJI6Lb_bs60C56mugJAxJ83i8KiFTPEXnVcN6Y6FRfOkHohQXznjmfdgfs&__tn__=-R

Egyptian state television said there were fears the death toll could rise, amid reports of attacks on multiple checkpoints.

Amaq said the operation also aimed to undermine attempts by Egyptian police to portray El-Arish as being safe from IS attacks.

Egypt has for years been battling North Sinai insurgents affiliated with the Islamic State group.

Hundreds of police officers and soldiers have been killed in attacks which surged after the army’s ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

The interior ministry said last month it had intelligence that militants were planning attacks on “important and vital facilities,” as well as prominent figures in el-Arish.

In late 2017, North Sinai was the scene of the deadliest jihadist attack in Egypt’s modern history when militants killed more than 300 worshippers at a mosque, without any group claiming responsibility.

Injured people are evacuated from the scene of a terrorist attack on a mosque in Bir al-Abd in the northern Sinai Peninsula of Egypt on November 24, 2017. (AP Photo)

In February 2018, the army launched a nationwide offensive against the Islamists, focused mainly on North Sinai.

According to official figures, around 650 militants have been killed since the start of the operation, while the army has lost some 50 soldiers.

No independent statistics are available and the region is largely cut off to journalists, making verification of casualty figures extremely difficult.

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