Two militant attacks hit two police checkpoints at dawn on Monday in the North Sinai city of Al-Arish. Both attacks left eight policemen and one civilian killed, according to a statement issued by the Interior Ministry’s official Facebook page.
The first attack which targeted El Matafy (fire brigade station) security checkpoint at dawn on Monday was carried out by nearly 20 militants who tried to control the checkpoint south of Al-Arish, the statement explained.
Meanwhile, the statement noted that the militants first opened fire using AK-47 assault rifles against forces stationed in the checkpoint. They also used improvised explosive devices (IEDs), a vehicle laden with explosives, and rocket-propelled grenade launchers (RPGs).
The statement said that security forces managed to detonate the vehicle before it got close to the checkpoint, and in the ensuing gunfight security forces killed five militants and injured three others.
“The first attack resulted in the death of one low-ranking police officer and six conscripts, in addition to a civilian who was accidently close to the checkpoint,” the statement said. “The attack left six conscripts and six civilians wounded, all of which have been transferred to hospitals.”
The civilian was 70-year-old Attia Shehta who died of his wounds due to the heavy fighting and explosions surrounding the checkpoint, a local resident said.
“Nearly 20 militants were onboard a truck that suddenly approached the El Matafy security checkpoint,” a resident of Al-Arish told Daily News Egypt on condition of anonymity. “The militants jumped off the truck and opened fire on the checkpoint using guns, grenades, and RPGs.” The resident added that a suicide bomber attempted to approach the checkpoint in the explosives-laden vehicle, but security forces managed to kill him before he got too close.
The Interior Ministry published a video that purported to show a militant who was driving a garbage truck, before being fired upon and killed.
In conjunction with the first attack, a number of other militants tried to carry out a second attack against El-Masieed police checkpoint located on the Ring Road inside Al-Arish. The militants opened fire on the checkpoint, but were forced to flee after security forces retaliated. One police conscript died in the attack, the statement said.
Both attacks caused extensive damage to the surroundings. The army reinforced the checkpoints after the attacks.
No one has yet to claim responsibility for the attacks; however, it is believed that the Islamic State (IS)-affiliated group “Sinai Province” may be behind both attacks. In the past week, a fire tore through the garbage truck depot in Al-Arish, and in the ensuing blaze several trucks were stolen.
The stolen garbage trucks are believed to be used by “Sinai Province” in violent attacks against the army and police checkpoints based in different cities in North Sinai, such as Al-Arish, Rafah, and Sheikh Zuweid.
Since 2013, state security forces represented in both the army and police have been engaged in violent clashes with “Sinai Province,” known previously as Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis. In 2014, the group declared its affiliation to IS and has launched deadly attacks on army and police checkpoints.
Over the course of the last two years, the Egyptian Armed Forces launched counterattacks against militant stationing points across the Sinai Peninsula where the group is based, particularly in the cities of Sheikh Zuweid, Rafah, and Al-Arish.