Eight troops have been killed after armed assailants attacked an army checkpoint in North Sinai, military spokesperson Mohamed Samir announced late Thursday night.
The attackers used a vehicle loaded with explosives and exchanged fire with the checkpoint personnel, who also fired heavily on the militants and killed three of them, Samir said. The attackers then blew up the vehicle, leading to the deaths of the military personnel.
Samir said army forces are combing the area to search for surviving attackers.
The attack comes after a series of similar incidents in North Sinai, all claimed by the Egyptian affiliate of the Islamic State organization, Province of Sinai, whose operations have targeted hundreds of police and army personnel, marking a surge in insurgent activity in the region following the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi.
In late October, Lieutenant-Colonel Ramy Hassanein was killed when a targeted roadside bomb exploded just outside Sheikh Zuwayed.
Two weeks before Hassanein’s assassination, an attack on another checkpoint in Sinai left at least 12 troops killed and six wounded. In the ensuing firefight, security forces killed 15 attackers. Province of Sinai later claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the BBC.
In a report published in November last year, “Egypt’s rising security threat,” the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) wrote that armed attacks in the country had increased in number and geographical scope, though most were concentrated in North Sinai.
“Over the past year, North Sinai has seen a sustained insurgency, marked by ever-more-spectacular operations and a growing base of militants,” the report said. “Violence occurs on a nearly daily basis, and the population of North Sinai has been increasingly implicated in an entrenched battle between security forces and militants.”
According to a TIMEP security brief released in August, 228 attacks occurred in the second quarter of 2016, the majority of which were carried out in North Sinai.
The downing of a Russian aircraft carrying more than 200 passengers over Sinai in October 2015 was also said to be by Islamic State affiliates. More recently, militants have not only been able to set up attacks, but establish checkpoints where they conduct surprise searches of citizens and even carry out abductions.
On Monday, the US State Department removed Egypt from its travel warning list.