Car Bomb Targeting Egyptian Soldiers Kills 30 in Sinai

Egypt declares state of emergency in areas near borders with Israel and Gaza; Rafah crossing closed.

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In this Aug. 9, 2012 file photo, army trucks carry Egyptian military tanks in El Arish, Egypt's northern Sinai Peninsula.
In this Aug. 9, 2012 file photo, army trucks carry Egyptian military tanks in El Arish, Egypt's northern Sinai Peninsula.Credit: AP

A coordinated assault on an army checkpoint in the Sinai Peninsula killed 30 Egyptian troops on Friday, making it the deadliest single attack in decades on the military, which has been struggling to stem a wave of violence by Islamic extremists since the overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

Officials described it as "well-planned" attack that began with a car bomb which may have been set off by a suicide attacker. Other militants then fired rocket-propelled grenades, striking a tank carrying ammunition and igniting a secondary explosion. Roadside bombs intended to target rescuers struck two army vehicles, seriously wounding a senior officer.

State-run TV said there was an explosion followed by clashes between troops and militants, without providing further details. The attack took place some 15 kilometers from the northern Sinai city of el-Arish, in an area called Karm el-Qawadees.

Large military forces were attempting to track down the perpetrators of the attack, Egyptian media reported Friday evening.

The officials said the death toll is expected to rise because 28 people were wounded and several were in critical condition.

Egypt's National Defense Council declared a three-month state of emergency in areas near borders with Israel and the Gaza Strip in the northern part of Sinai Peninsula, including a curfew. State TV also announced closure of the Rafah crossing, Gaza's only non-Israeli passage to outside world.

Headed by Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the council vowed that the army would take "revenge for the shedding of dear blood." It instructed authorities to take measures which it described necessary to protect lives of civilians.

Restoring quiet to Sinai is considered one of Sissi's central priorities, but despite the massive efforts being directed towards that aim, Egypt's military has failed to quell the militants.

On Sunday, six soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb southwest of al-Arish.

Egyptian security forces face a jihadist insurgency that has killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen since the army toppled president Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood last year after mass protests against his rule.

Most attacks have been in Sinai, where Ansar Beit-El Mikdash, a militant group often associated with Al-Qaida, is active. Smugglers, too, are responsible for much violence in the region; On Wednesday, two IDF soldiers were wounded near the border with Egypt when militants engaged in drug smuggling opened fire at them.

The search for who to blame for the chaos is leading some in Cairo to point their fingers at the Muslim Brotherhood, which is being accused of backing the militants in an attempt to destabilize not only the Sinai Peninsula, but the entire nation.

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