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Egyptian policemen killed in Sinai attack claimed by 'Islamic State' (IS)

More than a dozen members of its security forces have died in a mortar attack in North Sinai, Egyptian authorities said. IS claimed responsibility for the attack and disputed the official version of events.

Egyptian security forces blocked off the coastal city of Arish after a massive explosion at a security checkpoint, eyewitnesses said on Saturday.

Troops were hunting assailants in the area, according to the Interior Ministry.

"A mortar round was fired at the Safa checkpoint... which resulted in the martyrdom of 13 policemen," the ministry statement added.

Ambulances were targeted with heavy gunfire while trying to reach the injured, security and medical sources said.

IS claims a suicide bombing

The self-declared "Islamic State" (IS) group claimed responsibility for the attack but said that it used a suicide bomber to attack the Arish checkpoint. The bomber detonated a car laden with explosives at the scene, and the checkpoint was then attacked, according to IS.

Egypt is fighting an insurgency in the North Sinai area, near the border with Israel. IS' local

offshoot "Sinai Province"

has killed hundreds of soldiers and police and sometimes attacked Western targets within the country.

The jihadists stepped up their

campaign

after the military ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013.

dj/jm (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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