Car bomb kills 7 civilians in Egypt’s North Sinai
Abdel Fattah Isisi, Egyptian President
The army on Tuesday confirmed that seven civilians, including two young children, were killed by a car bomb that exploded at a security checkpoint in the Sinai Peninsula on Monday.
The military said it intercepted the vehicle at a checkpoint near the city of Arish, the capital of North Sinai province, and tried to contain the expected blast by running over the car with a tank. However, the bomb exploded after the tank had driven away and the civilians nearby were caught in the blast, according to images seen in video released by the army.
The army said no group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Four gunmen were inside the vehicle.
Insurgency in Egypt’s Sinai region has gained pace since the army toppled President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s oldest Islamist movement, following mass protests against his rule in mid-2013.
An army spokesperson said that forty fighters were also killed in a subsequent gun battle with soldiers at the checkpoint.
The attack started when a suicide car bomber rammed his vehicle into the checkpoint at a military compound in the southern Rafah village of el-Barth, followed by heavy gunfire from dozens of masked fighters on foot, officials said.
The dead included a high-ranking Special Forces officer, Col. Ahmed el-Mansi, and at least 26 soldiers were wounded in the attack.
The officials spoke to AP news agency on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, or ISIS) claimed responsibility, saying in an online statement that it had carried out the attack as the Egyptian army was preparing an assault on the group’s positions in Sinai.
Wilayat Sinai, a group affiliated with ISIL, frequently targets military and police personnel. Over the past few months, ISIL has focused its attacks on Egypt’s Christian minority and carried out at least four deadly assaults that killed dozens, prompting President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi to declare a state of emergency in the country.
The Sinai branch of ISIL appears to be the most resilient outside Syria and Iraq, where the group is losing ground.