Egypt’s army has suffered one of its largest losses of life in recent years. Militants have killed 26 people at a military checkpoint in the northern Sinai Peninsula, where jihadi fighters have waged an insurgency since the summer of 2013.
The official account has not been released as of yet but the unofficial accounts differ. One report has stated that there was a car bombing with another account refuting this claim and stating that the attack was a mortar strike.
Egypt’s president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, has announced an emergency meeting of the country’s national defence council, but there has been no official explanation of what happened.
The attack occurred in Sheikh Zuweid, a few kilometres from Gaza, and is the single-largest strike on Egyptian security forces since the army ousted the Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, last July. The death toll, which is expected to rise with 28 more currently having critical injuries, is larger than the 25 police conscripts who were brutally shot last August.
The attack follows other similar engagements which killed Israeli soldiers on a more southerly point of the Egyptian border on Wednesday.
These attacks do not represent a break in the status quo however; attacks have been happening on Sinai for over a decade. The attacks have only increased in ferocity and occurrence due to the ousting of Mohamed Morsi.
Hundreds of soldiers and policemen have been killed and in response the state has bombed areas where the insurgents are believed to be hiding. It is easy to be critical of this campaign as it could only enflame tensions between the new government and the insurgents; bombs do not differentiate between enemy and civilian. Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood denies it is linked to the violence. The largest jihadist group in Sinai is Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, which when loosely translated means Champions of Jerusalem. This group has been receiving advice over the internet from the Islamic State, ISIS. The two groups do not however have formal ties, an Egyptian-born Isis fighter has previously said.
“Isis has advised ABM on bomb-making, shooting down jets, how to make themselves more popular with locals, and social programs,” said the fighter.
President Sisi has said Egypt cannot give material help to America, or the West’s, anti-Isis coalition while it is fighting its own battle with extremists. The more sinister thing however is that he has used this most recent resurgence in terrorism to justify a crackdown on political opposition and open expression.