CAIRO (Reuters) – Islamic State on Sunday claimed responsibility for an attack on an Egyptian police checkpoint in northern Sinai, the group’s Amaq news agency reported, saying 15 soldiers were killed or wounded in what it described as an infiltration operation.
Egypt’s state news agency MENA said on Saturday that security forces foiled an attack on a checkpoint west of the city of al-Arish, and killed four militants while other fled.
MENA made no reference to any casualties among security forces in the attack, but the privately owned al-Masri al-Youm newspaper reported that four policemen had died.
Egyptian troops, backed by police, have since February been conducting a major operation targeting Islamist militants behind a wave of attacks against security forces and civilians. Hundreds of suspected militants have been killed or captured in the operation.
Amaq said Islamic State militants targeted the Kilometre 17 checkpoint west of al-Arish, without giving any evidence or details on how many were involved.
MENA, citing an unnamed source, said Egyptian police confronted the militants who tried to storm the checkpoint, killing four of them while the rest fled.
The Egyptian army military campaign began after President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi ordered the army and security forces to crush militants after gunmen killed hundreds of worshippers at a mosque in Sinai last November.
Egypt says fighting Islamist militants is a priority to restore security to the country of some 96 million people after years of turmoil that followed Arab Spring protests in 2011.
Sisi’s critics say his presidency has brought a harsh crackdown on dissent.
Reporting by Ali Abdelaty; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Alison Williams