Egypt: Violence continues in Sinai and Cairo

Egypt: Violence continues in Sinai and Cairo
Cairo metro station bombed after an unprecedented attack at sea.
3 min read
13 November, 2014
Egypt's army has been fighting militants in Sinai [Getty]
Militants in Egypt's restive Sinai peninsular shot dead two police officers and three soldiers on Thursday morning, while seven were wounded in a bombing at a Cairo metro station.

The deaths in Sinai came in two separate attacks which targeted travellers at a road checkpoint. Gunmen checked passengers' identification and shot them dead when they proved to be police and military conscripts, security officials said.

Violence on the sea

Late on Wednesday night, an Egyptian military vessel was attacked, leaving five sailors injured and eight others missing at sea.

In the maritime attack, four boats used by the assailants were destroyed and 32 of the suspected militants were arrested, the military said in a statement.

The Egyptian government is fighting an armed Islamist insurgency on the Sinai peninsula that has killed scores of police officers and soldiers, but a maritime attack is unprecedented.

An earlier report by the official MENA news agency said that a naval vessel had been set alight in an exchange of fire about 70 kilometres (45 miles) from Egypt's shore.

The air force was reportedly called in to apprehend the attackers.

Attack on patrol

The military said it was a "terrorist" attack that took place on Wednesday morning off the coast of the Damietta province in the country's north east.

"Search and rescue operations have evacuated five wounded servicemen to a military hospital... there are still eight personnel lost and the search continues," read a military statement.
     Search and rescue operations have evacuated five wounded servicemen... there are still eight lost and the search continues.
- Military statement

It was not immediately clear what the naval boat was doing so far offshore, or whether it was on a routine patrol anticipated by militants.

The attackers are reported to have used fishing boats and did not appear to have used rocket propelled grenades or heavier weapons.

The Mediterranean Sea is used by drug smugglers and people traffickers who have been intercepted by the Egyptian navy in the past.

There have been no recorded attacks at sea by Sinai-based armed groups who renewed an insurgency after the army overthrew Islamist-leaning President Mohamed Morsi last year.

An IS link?

Wednesday night's attack comes days after the area's main armed group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group (IS, formerly known as ISIS).

The group has focused its attacks on troops in Sinai, but has occasionally struck with car bombings and ambushes across the country.

Its pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State was the most significant regional show of support for the militants who control swathes of Iraq and Syria.

Created during the security vacuum following veteran Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak's overthrow in early 2011, Anar Beit al-Maqdis has displayed increasing sophistication in its attacks, despite a massive military crackdown.

It is believed to have been behind a multi-stage attack on an army checkpoint in North Sinai last month that killed at least 30 soldiers, and wounded a senior officer.

Several of its members are thought to have previously fought and trained alongside Islamist rebels in Syria.