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Attack on Egypt army kills 12 soldiers in Sinai province

The government has been battling a widespread insurgency in Sinai, where intermittent attacks have targeted police and the army for years
Smoke is seen rising from the scene of an army operation in northern Sinai last year (AFP)

At least 12 Egyptian soldiers were killed on Friday morning in an attack on their base in the restive province of Sinai.

The attack, which hit a military checkpoint in the coastal city of al-Arish in northern Sinai, also wounded six other soldiers, Sky News Arabia reported. 

The injured soldiers have been evacuated to a military hospital nearby, sources told local news site al-Watan.

The attack saw militants exchange rounds of mortar fire with security forces at the checkpoint. 

An army statement issued on Friday afternoon said "15 terrorists were killed" during the attack.

Recent months have seen intermittent attacks targeting soldiers, military personnel and police forces - but Friday's attack was much larger than those seen recently.

Much of the Sinai province has been a military zone since a bomb attack in al-Arish killed 30 soldiers last January.

The government has been battling a widespread insurgency in the province, recently announcing a new raft of economic projects aimed at improving vital infrastructure in the impoverished area.

However, militant attacks have continued apace despite the funding promises and strict security measures imposed by local authorities and the army.

On Saturday gunmen killed five police conscripts in al-Arish, spraying their car with bullets.

Three days earlier, gunmen had shot dead three police officers and their driver in an attack later claimed by Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, a local militant group that has pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

The same group claimed responsibility for shooting down a passenger plane packed with tourists returning from a resort in southern Sinai last year, killing all 224 people on board.