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15 Egyptian troops killed in Sinai

Islamic militants have attacked an army checkpoint in the restive north of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing at least 15 soldiers, wounding 19, and seizing two armoured vehicles, security officials said.

They said four other attacks on army checkpoints at about the same time killed three civilians and wounded 13 more. The four attacks appeared to have been aimed at diverting attention from the main assault on the checkpoint south of the town of Sheikh Zuweid, they said.

The officials said the attackers may have taken soldiers hostage when they seized the two armoured vehicles and drove away.

The attackers failed to capture a US-made Abrams tank because its crew drove it to a nearby army checkpoint, they said.

The militants have launched a series of complex attacks and ambushes in recent months despite a large-scale military campaign to suppress the growing insurgency in northern Sinai, which borders Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Today's attack mirrored past attacks in the same region, suggesting careful planning by the militants.

Attacks mainly targeting Egyptian security forces have spiked since the 2013 military overthrow of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi following massive protests against his divisive rule.

Most of the biggest attacks have been claimed by a Sinai-based group that pledged allegiance to the extremist Islamic State last year.

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