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Islamic State group claims responsibility for North Sinai attacks

Ahram Online , Tuesday 10 Jan 2017

The Islamic State militant group has claimed responsibility for Monday’s attacks on North Sinai police checkpoints which Egyptian authorities say killed eight policemen and one civilian.

The militant group claimed that the death toll was higher than that reported by Egyptian authorities.

“Twenty-five policemen were killed on Monday in a surprise attack launched by the Islamic State’s fighters on El-Matafe checkpoint in El-Masaeed neighbourhood west of Al-Arish in North Sinai,” the group’s Amaq news agency said in a statement.

On Monday, state-owned MENA agency quoted Egyptian security sources as saying that eight policemen and one civilian were killed and 22 others were injured in two separate attacks by Islamist militants on North Sinai checkpoints.

The Amaq statement said that a car rigged with a bomb exploded at one of the checkpoints, after which Islamic State group gunmen killed the policemen who survived the explosion.

The group also claimed that it destroyed two armoured police vehicles.

According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Interior on Monday afternoon, the first attack took place at El-Matafe checkpoint in El-Arish and was carried out by around 20 militants using rocket-propelled grenades and a car rigged with explosives.

The interior ministry said militants also targeted El-Masaeed checkpoint on the Ring Road, killing a police conscript during an exchange of fire.

The ministry said security forces were able to "fight off the terrorist attack," killing five militants and injuring three others.

The attacks came days after the Egyptian army said it was able to foil a plot by militants to attack several North Sinai checkpoints.

The Egyptian army and police have been battling an entrenched Islamist insurgency for several years in North Sinai.

Most of the attacks have been claimed by Sinai-based group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in November 2014.

Hours after the Monday attacks, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi spoke in a phone interview with prominent TV host Amr Adib about counterterrorism efforts by Egyptian security forces in North Sinai.

El-Sisi said that terrorism operations in Sinai were part of “a plot by certain countries and apparatuses.”

The president added that throughout the last three years Egyptian security forces destroyed underground weapons caches in Sinai containing thousands of tonnes of explosives.

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