Deadly Attacks Hit Egypt’s Sinai

At least 35 people killed as ISIL group attacks police posts in Sheikh Zuweid and El-Arish, sources tell Al Jazeera

At least 35 people have been killed in ongoing attacks on several military checkpoints and police stations in Egypt’s northern Sinai, security sources and witnesses have told Al Jazeera.

About 70 fighters of a group calling itself the Province of Sinai simultaneously attacked several targets in the area on Wednesday, the sources said.

At least 22 of the fighters were killed and three of their vehicles were destroyed, the sources added.

Egypt’s air force deployed fighter jets to the region to assist the army in the ongoing battle, Al Jazeera has learned.

RELATED: The battle for the Sinai

There were also reports that Israel has closed down its shared border crossings with Egypt.

Sources told Al Jazeera that all Egyptian security forces at two checkpoints at Sheikh Zuweid were killed.

The mortuary in El-Arish received at least 35 bodies, Egyptian security sources said, adding that at least 11 soldiers were among the dead.

However, local media reports suggested the death toll of the attacks could be much higher.

The Egyptian daily Al Ahram reported that there had been no official death toll because ambulances had trouble reaching the injured and killed for fear of getting caught in the crossfire.

Coordinated attacks

Wael Abbas, an Egyptian journalist and blogger, told Al Jazeera that the attack was highly “coordinated” and that there were reports that the fighters had put mines on the roads to prevent more Egyptian military vehicles from accessing the area.

He said some supporters of ISIL had tweeted that they were going “to eradicate the military’s presence in Sinai” before the attacks.

“It seems that the Islamists just like in Iraq and Syria want Sinai to go to the Islamic State [ISIL],” Abbas said.

The power was cut in Sheikh Zuweid and residents were staying indoors, as the clashes continued, witnesses told Al Ahram.

Police stations in the towns of Sheikh Zuweid and El-Arish were among the targets of the attacks, witnesses said.

Sources told Al Jazeera that fighters took over two tanks at one of the checkpoints.

Fighters have launched many attacks killing hundreds of police and soldiers in the northern Sinai in recent months.

The group Province of Sinai was previously called Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (Champions of Jerusalem), but announced a name change in November 2014 when it pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The group, which was founded after the military-backed toppling of former President Mohamed Morsi, had originally targeted Israeli border installations, but soon shifted onto Egyptian government forces.

Hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and police officers have since fallen victims to attacks staged by the group.


Reprinted with permission from Al Jazeera