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Egypt's Sinai: Car bomb attack kills eight soldiers

Islamic State-linked militants have stepped up attacks against government forces in Egypt's Sinai
Smoke rises from scene of army operation in northern Sinai last year (AFP)

Eight Egyptian soldiers were killed in a car bomb attack targeting a checkpoint in Sinai, where the local affiliate of the Islamic State (IS) group is leading assaults against government forces, the army said on Thursday.

"A group of armed terrorists attacked one of the security checkpoints in north Sinai," the army spokesman said.

"A car bomb attack, the clashes that ensued and a blast targeting one of the vehicles left eight members of the armed forces dead."

Three militants were also killed in the fighting, he said.

The military did not reveal where in northern Sinai the attack had taken place.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

The army has been battling IS-affiliated militants in northern Sinai. Violence has escalated since the military overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

The government says hundreds of police and soldiers have died in the attacks, which have also hit Cairo and the Nile Delta.

Most of the attacks have been claimed by the Egyptian IS affiliate, a group that calls itself the Sinai Province.

At least 12 Egyptian soldiers were killed last month in an attack on their base in the restive province.

Much of the Sinai province has been a military zone since a bomb attack in al-Arish killed 30 soldiers in January 2015.

The militants have claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian plane over Sinai in October 2015 that killed all 224 people on board, most of them Russian holidaymakers.

The government recently announced a raft of new economic projects aimed at improving vital infrastructure in the impoverished areas of the province.

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