Militants who set up checkpoints and scoured civilian cars for off-duty security personnel killed five soldiers and police officers in Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula on Thursday, according to security officials.
The attacks came despite a large-scale military campaign in the area to root out jihadist groups after the massacre of 31 soldiers last month. The militants’ ability to set up their own roadblocks — in what is essentially a military zone — was a stark reminder of the government’s faltering effort to contain an insurgency that has killed hundreds of military and police, New York Times reports.
In a separate episode, the Egyptian military said it was searching for eight missing seamen in the Mediterranean, a day after gunmen in several boats — possibly smugglers — fired on a naval vessel. The military blamed “terrorists” for the assault.
The attacks came just days after Egypt’s most active militant group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, declared its allegiance to the Islamic. The pledge of loyalty, which the group publicized on Monday, has led to fears that the Egyptian group would broaden its targets beyond members of the security services.
Egypt’s military and police services have been battered by the militants for more than a year. The attacks started in the months after the military ouster of Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first elected president, last July. In its statements, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, whose name translates as Supporters of Jerusalem, has framed its attacks as retaliation for violent abuses by the security services.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the killings on Thursday. Security officials said that the police officers and soldiers had been off duty and wearing civilian clothes, but were recognized because of their identity cards. Three soldiers were taken from a car in one attack, and the two police officers in the other.
One of the shootings took place outside Rafah, a town bordering Israel where the Egyptian military has displaced thousands of people since last month by demolishing houses to deter cross-border smuggling of weapons.
By Edos News