Egypt’s Sisi cuts short visit over Sinai attacks – BBC News








Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, responding to attacks in Sinai, 25 October 2014President Sisi launched a crackdown in Sinai after 31 soldiers were killed in October


Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has cut short a visit to an African Union summit to deal with a series of deadly attacks in the Sinai peninsula.

Attacks against military and police targets in North Sinai late on Thursday left at least 30 dead and many more wounded.

The militant group Sinai Province, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State, said it carried out the attacks.

Egypt has conducted a major security crackdown in Sinai in recent months.

Thursday’s attacks represent some of the worst anti-government violence in Egypt for months, and indicate a previously unseen level of co-ordination by militants, correspondents and analysts say.

Emergency services were still digging in the rubble for bodies on Friday morning, and two children died from wounds they had reportedly received on Thursday.


Increasingly lawless

Most of the victims were soldiers in the provincial capital, El-Arish, where officials said rockets had been fired at police offices, a military base and a military hotel before a car bomb exploded at the rear gate of the military base. Several army checkpoints in the city were also targeted.

The bodies of 30 victims have been flown back to Cairo, officials said.

Mr Sisi was returning to the Egyptian capital from an African Union summit in Ethiopia “to monitor the situation”, his office said in a statement.

Sinai has become increasingly lawless since President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in 2011, and insurgents have intensified attacks since his Islamist successor Mohammed Morsi was ousted in 2013.


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Recent Sinai attacks


Map of North Sinai

  • Oct 2014: At least 31 soldiers killed in suicide bombing and shooting in and around El-Arish
  • Sept 2014: Bomb attack near Gaza border kills at least 11 policemen

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North Sinai has been under a state of emergency and a curfew since October, when an attack on a checkpoint killed dozens of soldiers.

Major military operations in the region have so far failed to quell the violence, though a military spokesman said in a Facebook post that Thursday’s attacks were the result of “successful strikes” against militants.


Buffer zone

Sinai Province, which was originally inspired by al-Qaeda, changed its named from Ansar Beit al-Maqdis when it pledged allegiance to Islamic State in November.

The group has called on Egyptians to rebel against Mr Sisi.

As part of its security crackdown in Sinai, Egypt has been creating a 1km (0.6-mile) buffer zone along the border with Gaza in a bid to stop militants smuggling weapons through tunnels from the Palestinian territory.

The project has displaced more than 1,000 families in Rafah and severed an economic lifeline for many Palestinians.


Egyptian army vehicle in Rafah, Egypt, November 2014Egypt has been creating a buffer zone in Rafah

One of the targets of Thursday’s attacks was a checkpoint in Rafah, where medical and security sources said an army major had been shot dead.

In El-Arish, newspaper al-Ahram said its office – which is opposite the hotel and base that were targeted – had been completely destroyed.

Four soldiers were also wounded in an attack at a checkpoint outside El-Arish.

In a separate incident, a police officer was killed in the canal city of Suez, and officials said a suspected militant killed himself whilst trying to plant a bomb in Port Said.

The US condemned the Sinai attacks, saying it remained “steadfast in its support of the Egyptian government’s efforts to combat the threat of terrorism”.

President Sisi is the former military chief who led the crackdown on Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood has said it rejects violence.

Tensions have also been raised across Egypt this week amid protests marking the anniversary of the 2011 uprising that ousted then-leader Hosni Mubarak.

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