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Sinai bomb injures 21 policemen as Cairo seeks $100m US arms deal

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the bomb that injured policemen who were in the town of al-Arish
Palestinian troops on patrol as Egyptian soldiers and militants clash in Rafah in North Sinai just over Egypt's eastern border with the Gaza Strip on 1 July 2015 (AA)

At least 21 policemen were injured on Thursday when a bomb went off in northeastern Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula, according to the Health Ministry.

“Twenty-one policemen were injured when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb,” ministry spokesman Hossam Abdel-Ghaffar said, adding that three of the wounded were in a serious condition.

The incident had occurred in the North Sinai city of Arish, where the bus was carrying policemen who were on leave.

A spokesman for Egypt’s Interior Ministry had said earlier that a total of 18 policemen had been hurt in the blast.

Security officials said that the bomb was detonated by remote control.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack.

Last week, militants allegedly belonging to the Islamic State group staged a series of coordinated attacks on security checkpoints in northern Sinai that killed at least 17 soldiers, according to official state figures.

Since the attacks, Egypt has gone on the offensive and says it has so far killed 241 militants in the Sinai during the first week of July, while losing a total of 21 soldiers.

The escalating turbulence in the region, which has also seen neighbouring Libya spiral into violence, has now prompted Egypt to try and purchase high-tech border surveillance equipment worth up to $100mn from the US.

The US Defence Department said on Tuesday that it had already entered into the deal but that the final agreement had to be approved by Congress.

“This mobile surveillance sensor security system will provide Egypt with advanced capabilities intended to bolster its border surveillance capabilities along its border with Libya and elsewhere,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

“This procurement is intended for Egyptian Border Guard Forces, which currently lack any remote detection capability along unpatrolled areas of Egypt’s borders. This system would provide an early warning capability to allow for faster response times to mitigate threats to the border guards and the civilian population.”

Egypt is one of the main recipients of US military aid and while this was partially suspended following the removal of Egypt’s first democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi, it was reintroduced back in March due to the rise of the Islamic State group.

Since Morsi’s ousting in in mid-2013, the restive northern Sinai Peninsula has become the epicentre of a deadly insurgency against Egyptian security personnel.