The Interior Ministry announced that seven police personnel and one civilian were killed and 12 others injured in an attack targeting a police checkpoint in the city of Arish on Monday. The attack was carried out near the North Sinai fire fighting department using rocket-propelled grenades and a booby-trapped car.
The ministry said issued a statement saying that an explosive device targeting the checkpoint and the surrounding area was accompanied by heavy gunfire.
The statement adds that security forces succeeded in detonating a booby-trapped car before it it reached the checkpoint and engaged with the perpetrators of the attack, killing five and injuring three others, and dismantling the bombs planted around the checkpoint.
Security forces circumvented another attempted attack on al-Masaeed checkpoint on a main Arish road, according to the ministry, where attackers opened heavy fire on police personnel killing one during the exchange. A security source told Mada Masr that it is probable that the attackers used a garbage truck that was stolen from a garage in Arish which was set on fire a few days ago.
No group has claimed the attack yet.
The Interior Ministry published a video of the attack which shows security forces killing the driver of the vehicle used in the attack.
A similar attack took place in another North Sinai City, Bir al-Abd, in mid-October, killing 12 troops and injuring six others. Fifteen perpetrators were killed according to a statement issued by the Armed Forces. The Province of Sinai, a local affiliate of the Islamic State group, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Armed attacks on security forces have increased in North Sinai since the ouster of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in 2013. The Armed Forces have launched ongoing military operations in the area in response aiming to eradicate militant groups, the most prominent of which is the Province of Sinai.
Mokhtar Awad, research fellow on extremism at George Washington University, told Mada Masr that today’s attack reflects a significant development in the ability of the militants to reach the heart of Arish, which he says is “an indication that the group [Province of Sinai] has been revived after a period of military advancement by the Armed Forces in the east, in Rafah and Sheikh Zuwayed.”
According to Awad the group is currently shifting its focus to Arish and areas in the center and west of Sinai, citing other recent attempted attacks.
He said “we also recently witnessed an increase in operations by snipers, assassinations and explosions in Arish, but what sets this attack apart is the quantity of explosives. And if the use of the garbage truck is confirmed, this means that there was an intentional effort to mislead security forces in a way that enables an armed exchange.”
Awad added that any attack inside Arish, which had been safer than the most eastern areas despite the increase in militant activity in the last four years, is a cause of grave alarm for security forces as well as civilians.