Egyptian troops die in Sinai bomb attack

The BBC's Orla Guerin: "The military has cut communications to el-Arish"

Eleven Egyptian military personnel have been killed and dozens more wounded in a car bomb attack near the North Sinai city of el-Arish.

Al-Masri al-Youm newspaper said a convoy of buses carrying infantry soldiers was hit by a roadside bomb as it moved through the Kharouba area.

Attacks on security forces in the Sinai have increased since Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was ousted in July.

No group has yet admitted carrying out Wednesday's bombing.

The peninsula has grown increasingly unstable in recent years, triggered by the fall of President Hosni Mubarak.

Analysis

The Egyptian army has been fighting a long battle to subdue the strategically important Sinai peninsula. There were crackdowns under long-time military ruler Hosni Mubarak.

The latest operation - a massive offensive - was launched in September and is reported to involve as many as 20,000 troops. Their enemy is a web of militant groups, some inspired by al-Qaeda.

The army has been destroying militant hideouts and arms caches, and one local source says Wednesday's car bombing is a revenge attack.

Military expert Sameh Seifal al-Yazel, a retired general, believes the offensive will show results by April. "It won't be finished by then, but things will be a lot better," he said.

While there has been a reduction in the rate of attacks in Sinai, police and army continue to be targeted. Some analysts believe that the insurgents may be changing tactics, focusing on less frequent but more high-profile attacks.

His overthrow in February 2011 left the northern Sinai vulnerable to groups of jihadists, some with links to the Gaza Strip.

In September security forces launched an offensive against Islamist militants in the Sinai, but have suffered a spate of deadly bombings. In recent months some 100 members of the security forces have been killed.

Wednesday's attack, which took place at around 07:45 local time (05:45 GMT) on the road from Rafah to el-Arish, is thought to be the bloodiest against the military since Mr Morsi was deposed.

All 11 who died and the 37 reported injured were serving military personnel.

The attack is said to have targeted Egypt's Second Field Army, which has been deployed in Sinai and has been involved in an operation to destroy tunnels along Egypt's border with Gaza.

The soldiers were on their way back to Cairo on leave, reports said. Some of the most seriously wounded victims were being airlifted to hospital in the capital.

Communications with the area were cut as military helicopters circled over the area, searching for the attackers, BBC Cairo correspondent Orla Guerin reports.

'Black terrorism'

Interim Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi condemned the attack and said the government was looking at "all the alternatives to deal with the ongoing terrorist incidents".

Recent Sinai attacks

  • 19 August - 24 policemen killed in attack on convoy in Rafah
  • 11 September - Six soldiers dead in double suicide bombing at military targets in Rafah
  • 30 September - Three killed in attacks on checkpoints
  • 7 October - Three police killed by car bomb in south Sinai
  • 10 October - Four members of security forces dead in suicide car bomb attack near el-Arish
  • Dozens of militants have also died

Egypt's military spokesman expressed his condolences and said the armed forces would continue to fight "black terrorism".

A local source said the bombing was in revenge for the army offensive which had destroyed militant hideouts and arms caches in Sinai.

Meanwhile, a Sinai-based jihadist group linked to al-Qaeda has admitted killing a high-ranking member of Egypt's National Security Agency outside his home in eastern Cairo this week.

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis said it had shot dead Col Mohammed Mabruk, who had been due to testify against ex-President Morsi.

The colonel was believed to have helped uncover a network of Muslim Brotherhood members that had tried to help leaders of the movement flee the country after Mr Morsi was ousted. The former president is part of the Brotherhood.

Map

In a separate incident in Cairo on Wednesday, at least three people were hurt in an attack on a police checkpoint. An explosive device was thrown and shots were fired at the checkpoint, reports said. It was not clear who was behind the incident.

The army deposed Mohammed Morsi on 3 July after days of mass protests and a military ultimatum to resolve the political crisis that had evolved between his Islamist supporters and opponents.

Mr Morsi and thousands of Brotherhood leaders and members have since been arrested. Hundreds of Morsi supporters died when two protest camps were violently broken up by the military in August.

More on This Story

Egypt in transition

More Middle East stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • OrchestraSound of success

    How one of Turkey’s finest orchestras found global fame

Programmes

  • Ebola patients in Sierra LeoneHARDtalk Watch

    Dr Geraldine O'Hara recalls the horrors of working on the Ebola frontline in Sierra Leone

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.