Cairo: Militants fired a barrage of rockets and set off a car bomb Thursday killing at least 26 people, mostly soldiers, in Egypt´s North Sinai province, where security forces are battling a raging insurgency.
Militants have regularly attacked security forces in the Sinai Peninsula since president Mohamed Morsi was ousted by then army chief and now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in July 2013.
They say this is in retaliation for a bloody government crackdown against Morsi supporters that has left hundreds dead, thousands jailed and dozens sentenced to death after speedy trials the United Nations says is “unprecedented in recent history”.
The main focus of Thursday´s attacks was El-Arish, the provincial capital, where a military base, a nearby police headquarters, a residential complex for army and police officers and an army checkpoint were targeted in the biggest such incident since October, the army and security officials said.
Twenty-five people, mostly soldiers, were killed in a near-simultaneous assault of rockets and the car bomb.
“Terrorist elements have attacked several police and army headquarters and facilities using explosive-laden vehicles and rockets,” the military said.
“An exchange of fire is ongoing and the elements are being dealt with.”
Security officials said militants first fired rockets at the El-Arish police headquarters and the military base, which was followed by the car bomb.
Minutes later a barrage of rockets struck the nearby housing complex.
Late on Thursday militants also attacked a military checkpoint south of El-Arish, wounding four soldiers.
In a separate attack an officer was killed when a rocket struck an army checkpoint in the town of Rafah, on the border with the Gaza Strip.
Overall, officials said at least 62 people were wounded in the attacks in North Sinai.
In another incident a police officer was killed when struck by a bomb in the canal city of Suez.