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Militant attack kills 12 Egyptian soldiers in Sinai

Published 14/10/2016

The militants are now led by a local affiliate of the Islamic State group
The militants are now led by a local affiliate of the Islamic State group

Suspected Islamic militants have attacked an army checkpoint in the Sinai Peninsula - killing 12 soldiers, Egyptian officials say.

The attack, about 50 miles east of the Suez Canal, wounded another eight soldiers. The officials had no word on casualties among the militants.

Egypt has for years battled militants in Sinai, but the insurgency has grown deadlier and spread into the mainland since the 2013 ousting of an elected Islamist president.

The militants are now led by a local affiliate of the Islamic State group.

There has been a recent surge in attacks in Sinai, but attacks elsewhere in Egypt have declined.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, though it bore the hallmarks of the local affiliate of the extremist Islamic State group, which is based in Sinai.

Calling itself the Emirate of Sinai, the group is leading the insurgency in the strategic region bordering Israel and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Friday's attack is the latest in what appears to be a surge in the number of operations launched by the militants as well as a wave of IS kidnappings and subsequent killings of Sinai's local residents suspected of collaborating with security forces battling the militants.

However, there has been a dramatic fall in recent months in the number of attacks on mainland Egypt that have been claimed by the IS.

A previously unheard of group - Hasm, or Decisiveness - seems to have taken the lead in those attacks.

It claimed responsibility for the attempted assassination in recent weeks in Cairo of a top prosecutor and a former mufti, or chief theologian.

Authorities have placed tight restrictions on travel to Sinai, denying access by independent and foreign media to the vast and arid region.

The government also routinely claims the death of dozens of militants every month, and occasionally announces that troops are close to defeating the insurgency.

AP

Press Association

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