Blast kills 11 policemen in Sinai

An explosive killed 11 policemen and injured four others in North Sinai on Tuesday, the state-owned Al-Ahram portal reported. 

The target was a police armored vehicle in the Sheikh Zuwayed area of North Sinai, a security source told Al-Ahram. 

Privately owned Al-Watan newspaper reported that the assailants built a road bump to force the armored vehicle to slow down, giving them time to detonate the explosive devices.

Al-Watan also claimed that the vehicle was carrying two propane tanks, which blew up, adding to the force of the explosion.

The victims have been identified and will be transferred to their home governorates, where they will be given official military funerals.

Deputy Interior Minister for special operations, Medhat Menshawy, told privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper that Tuesday’s attack was in response to the death of “Abu Shita,” one of the suspects in the soldiers’ kidnapping during former President Mohamed Morsi’s rule.  

A security raid on an alleged terrorist hideout on Monday resulted in the deaths of three civilians, included Fayez Abdallah Hamdan Abu Shita, as well as the injury of three police officers during an exchange of fire.

“Our troops are persistent and we will not take one step back. All the sacrifices made by the Central Security Forces make the rest of us more determined to continue providing security regardless of the sacrifices,” Menshawy added.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb expressed similar sentiments in his eulogy for the soldiers. “We’re paying the price we agreed to and we’re willing to pay our dues and sacrifice to continue building this precious country.”

Mehleb added that the nation mourns the souls of the martyrs, who sacrificed their lives for the survival of Egypt, while promising to fight terrorism and prosecute all those with blood on their hands.

Sinai has been the site of ongoing assaults on police and military targets by terrorist groups, especially in the aftermath of the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood from power.

A military tribunal issued verdicts recently in one of the first cases against militants accused of belonging to Ansar Beit al-Maqdes. Seven defendants accused of killing military and police officers were sentenced to death in the case known as the “Arab Sharkas cell.” 

During a meeting with a United States Congressional Delegation, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said the state’s attempts to protect civilians is the reason behind the prolonged fight against terrorism in Sinai.

“We do our best to avoid injuring civilians during confrontations with extremist groups in Sinai. This war could’ve been resolved in a short time, but the outcome would’ve been the deaths of many innocent civilians, which is something the Egyptian state refuses,” said Sisi, according to a presidential statement.

The delegation, which arrived in Cairo on Monday, is led by Chairman of the US House of Representatives’ Armed Services Committee, Howard Mckeon, and includes seven members of the House and Acting Deputy Chief of Mission in Cairo, David Ranz.

According to Ambassador Ihab Badawi, official spokesperson for the Presidency, one of the main issues discussed during Tuesday’s meeting at the presidential headquarters was the two nations’ mutual fight against terrorism.  

In April, the US announced partial resumption of military aid to Egypt, which had been interrupted following the violent dispersal of pro-Morsi sit-ins last year. The pentagon said it would deliver US$650 million in aid to the Egyptian military, as well as 10 Apache helicopters, which are still to arrive.

During a press conference on June 22, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the 10 Apache helicopters would be delivered “very soon.” The delegation reiterated this promise, adding that fighting terrorism and extremism is a joint battle that has to be fought through collaboration between Egypt and the US.

However, Sisi added, “Whoever thinks fighting terrorism lies in the security dimension only is mistaken. Regardless of how important or pivotal that dimension is, it has to be carried out in parallel with socio-economic procedures.”

He clarified, “Instead of spending large sums of money on military wars against terrorism, security includes assisting moderate states in the region in strengthening their economies and maximizing their ability to provide food, housing and proper lives for their citizens.” 

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