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Four suspected militants killed in attack on Egyptian police in Sinai

Islamic State claims the attack, which reportedly left at least four soldiers dead
Egypt’s current operation against militants in the Sinai began in February (AFP/file photo)

Egyptian security forces on Saturday killed four suspected militants who tried to attack a police checkpoint in northern Sinai, state news agency MENA reported.

The Islamic State (IS) militant group on Sunday claimed the attack through its mouthpiece news agency Amaq.

MENA said the militants, some armed with explosive belts, tried to storm a checkpoint near the city of al-Arish, the North Sinai provincial capital.

It cited a source as saying police officers killed four of them while the rest fled.

Security forces recovered 10 explosive charges, four automatic rifles, three suicide belts, rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and hand grenades, MENA said.

Local media published pictures of at least two men, one lying on an asphalt road and another on the sand, and separate photographs of weapons found on them.

The agency made no mention of any police casualties, according to Reuters.

Still, Egyptian security sources told local Arabic-language media that four Egyptian policemen were also killed in the clash while several others were wounded, Al Jazeera reported.

Fifteen Egyptian soldiers were killed or wounded, according to Amaq, in what it referred to as an infiltration operation.

Authorities have not blamed any group for the attack and none has claimed responsibility, although Islamic State (IS) group militants are active in the region.

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Egypt’s current operation against militants in the Sinai began in February when President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ordered the army and security forces to crush IS after gunmen killed hundreds of worshippers at a mosque in Sinai last November.

An interior ministry spokesman could not immediately be reached for a comment.

Saturday's deaths raised to at least 329 the number of suspected militants killed in the campaign.

Egypt says fighting the militants is a priority to restore security to the country of 96 million people after years of turmoil that followed Arab Spring protests in 2011.

Sisi's critics say his presidency has brought a harsh crackdown against civil dissent.

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