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Egyptian army in deadly clash with jihadis

April 14, 2018

Militants have attacked an Egyptian army base hours after a nationwide state of emergency was extended for the fourth time. Egypt has been fighting an insurgency since President el-Sissi toppled his predecessor in 2013.

Egyptian soldier has finger on trigger as he patrols North Sinai
Image: Getty Images/AFP/M. El-Shahed

Eight Egyptian soldiers and 14 jihadis were killed Saturday when militants attacked an army camp, just hours after Egypt extended its state of emergency for the fourth time since last year.

Suicide bombers and gunmen armed with grenades attacked around dawn. It was the largest attack against Egyptian forces since Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi won a second presidential term last month after promising stability and security for Egyptians.

"The armed forces were able today to foil a large terrorist operation," the military said.

Four of the militants detonated their explosive belts, killing the soldiers and wounding 15 others, according to a statement from the Egyptian army.

Egypt has been battling an Islamist insurgency in the northern Sinai Peninsula since el-Sissi toppled his predecessor, Mohammed Morsi, in 2013. Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, saw his presidency beset by popular protests.

"The armed forces and the police will take the necessary measures to confront the dangers of terrorism and its financing and to preserve security across the country," the official gazette said in announcing the extension of the state of emergency for three months.

The emergency law gives police expanded powers to carry out arrests, surveillance and seizures. It also increases their authority to limit freedom of movement.

Middle East expert Michael Thumann on the Sinai region

Fresh offensive

In November, el-Sissi issued a new order for the army to defeat the Islamic State (IS) militants in the northern Sinai within three months. His order came after an attack on a mosque that left more than 300 dead. It was the deadliest such attack in Egypt in years.

The military launched what it called a major operation against the jihadis in February, a month before el-Sissi was returned to power in an election that featured just one other candidate, a strong supporter of the president.

The military operation is centered in the Sinai Peninsula but also includes parts of Egypt's Nile Delta and the Western Desert, along the largely open border with Libya.

State of emergency and curfew

El-Sissi first imposed a countrywide state of emergency in April 2017 after IS militants carried out two church bombings on Palm Sunday, killing at least 45 people. The emergency decree was subsequently renewed in July and October 2017 and January 2018.

Prime Minister Sherif Ismail also extended an overnight curfew in parts of the northern Sinai where IS affiliates are based, according to another decree published in the official gazette.

The areas affected include El-Arish, the capital of North Sinai, and the border town of Rafah, along the Palestinian-held Gaza Strip.

bik/tj (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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