Two military-contracted workers were killed and 10 others were injured when an IED exploded inside their vehicle as they were driving on the ring road south of the North Sinai capital of Arish on Thursday morning.
A security source, who spoke to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity, stated that an IED planted inside a pickup truck transporting construction workers on the ring road detonated at approximately 8 am on Thursday, immediately killing two workers and injuring 10.
The workers targeted in the attack were all contracted as part of a project to develop security fortifications around military checkpoints on the ring road, the source clarified, adding that the explosion took place a few kilometers away from a nearby military checkpoint.
The 10 injured workers were transported to Arish General Hospital, a medical source informed Mada Masr. The source said that they are in critical condition, having lost limbs and sustained severe burns in the blast.
Thursday’s incident took place one day after an electrical repair team was the target of another IED attack in the North Sinai city of Sheikh Zuwayed.
An IED exploded near a tractor that was being used by a repair team from the North Sinai Electricity Company on Wednesday, according to a source from the company, who said that the driver of the tractor was critically injured and an engineer sustained burns in the attack. The two men were admitted to the Arish General Hospital for treatment.
The source, who spoke to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity, said that the two employees were working on repairs for a power line that connects to the Wahshi power plant south of Sheikh Zuwayed. The tractor, which is used to pull electricity cables, was running when the explosive device detonated, the source explained.
According to information Mada Masr previously obtained from a security source, authorities began the construction of nine security checkpoints — which span the entirety of the ring road, starting from its entrance in the west of Arish until its intersection with the Arish-Hasana Road — in July.
Large concrete walls are being erected to fortify these military checkpoints from all sides, which will also be secured using gates and surveillance towers. A 6-meter-high, 1-km long portion of a barrier alongside the ring road, which separates the security perimeter around the Arish airport from the rest of the city, was also completed by July. Eyewitnesses previously told Mada Masr that the project is being overseen by the Armed Forces.
The ring road, on which Thursday’s incident took place, has been closed to civilian traffic since 2015, and movement is restricted to police and military vehicles, as well as vehicles and equipment used by civil construction companies involved in the development of security fortifications.
A source close to the construction companies working on the fortifications, speaking to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity, stated that contractors — whether they are working on checkpoint fortifications or the barrier in the south of Arish — face difficult conditions, because they have been the targets of militant attacks in recent months.
The source added that a construction worker was injured last week in an on-site shooting, and that one contractor suffered heavy financial losses after wood materials were set on fire during the night at a work site.
A group of workers were also kidnapped by militants for several days while working on the construction of the southern barrier in Arish in September, the source added, saying that their captors eventually released them on the condition that they do not return to working for projects overseen or contracted by Egyptian authorities.
In another recent incident targeting military-contracted workers, four civilians were shot and killed near a checkpoint in the Samran neighborhood south of Arish on October 20. Although local sources told Mada Masr at the time that they suspected the shots came from the military checkpoint nearby, the Province of Sinai claimed responsibility for the killings in a statement released through its media arm, the Amaq News Agency, on Wednesday, describing the workers as “agents of the Egyptian army.”
A security source quoted by the Associated Press reported that the four workers were involved in the construction of the security barrier to the south of Arish.