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Attacks on police station in Sinai leaves 13 dead

Attacks on police station in Sinai leaves 13 dead

EL-ARISH: At least 13 people, mostly Egyptian policemen, were killed on Sunday in separate operations when militants attacked a police station in the provincial capital of Egypt’s northern Sinai, and detonated a roadside bomb against a passing armoured vehicle, officials said.

Northern Sinai has witnessed a series of complex and successful attacks targeting Egyptian security forces, many of which have been claimed by a local affiliate of the self-styled Islamic State group.

Twitter accounts affiliated with the group claimed responsibility for the Sunday attacks. In the largest of the day’s attacks, a suspected car bomber detonated his vehicle at the entrance of a large police station in el-Arish, the capital of North Sinai province, killing at least six, including five policemen, and injuring several civilians, the Interior Ministry said.

By sundown, Health Ministry Spokesman Hossam Abdel-Ghaffar in Cairo said at least seven bodies were pulled from the rubble, while 40 people were injured, including some in critical condition.

The blast left a deep crater in the residential area, and damaged several homes nearby.

Officials said rescue crews were still searching through the rubble for survivors and the death toll was expected to rise. The explosion was the second attack Sunday on troops in Sinai.

Earlier in the day, six soldiers, including an officer, were killed when a roadside bomb struck their armoured vehicle travelling south of el-Arish.

In a third smaller attack, militants clashed with soldiers at a mobile checkpoint in Rafah, south of el-Arish, wounding one police officer and two soldiers. Sunday is Eastern Orthodox Easter in Egypt, and police have been on high alert against attacks.

The attacks took place as Egypt’s defence minister carried out a limited military reshuffle, replacing the commander of the army division responsible for securing northern Sinai. Maj. Gen. Mohammed el-Shahat, who only commanded Egypt’s second field army for about a year, was promoted to head of military intelligence; el-Shahat’s deputy, Maj. Gen. Nasser el-Assi, will replace him.

In a statement posted on its official Facebook page, the Interior Ministry — which oversees the police — said a suicide bomber in a small truck drove through a checkpoint outside the police station, causing guards to open fire before the vehicle exploded.

The ministry said five policemen and a civilian were killed in the explosion.

An official said the dead include two ranking police officers and two conscripts. Residents say the explosion outside one of four main police stations in el-Arish shook the surrounding district. One woman said her house walls cracked. Cars outside the station were on fire. Abu Mohammed, a resident who lives near the police station, said body parts littered the area after the huge explosion, which also split an armoured car into two.

He said the suicide bomber kept on driving past sand mounds and a cement blast wall securing the station — all despite coming under heavy fire from the guards. “Those at the other end of town heard the explosion. It was humongous.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2015

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