Twelve army conscripts died and 13 were injured in an attack that targeted Al-Gaz army checkpoint in Al-Sabeel village on Thursday, a North Sinai-based journalist told Daily News Egypt on condition of anonymity.
The attack in the North Sinai city of Al-Arish was carried out using rocket-propelled grenade launchers (RPG), AK-47 assault rifles, and a vehicle laden with explosives. The conscripts and officers at the checkpoint opened fire on the vehicle on Thursday evening.
Right after reports of the attack circulated on social media, the armed forces issued a statement clarifying that the attack left eight conscripts dead after a “terrorist militant group” launched the attack with four-wheel drive vehicles, which contained a massive amount of explosives.
According to the statement of the official army spokesperson, the conscripts and officers at the checkpoint had exchanged fire with the attackers, killing three of the latter.
Meanwhile, Islamic State (IS)-affiliated group “Sinai Province” declared in a statement issued on its website on Saturday morning that it claims responsibility for the attack, saying that it succeeded in killing 15 army conscripts.
“Thanks to Allah, a number of caliphate soldiers launched an attack on Thursday against a checkpoint affiliated to the apostate Egyptian army. The checkpoint is located in Al-Sabeel village southwest of Al-Arish city. Following clashes while using light and heavy weapons, our soldiers were able to kill 15 apostates at the checkpoint,” the statement read.
Moreover, the group alleged that during the attack, it was able to seize two M113 armoured personnel carriers, in addition to different kinds of other ammunition and guns, according to the statement.
The army’s media office was not available to verify the authenticity of the allegations regarding the killed conscripts that had been mentioned in the “Sinai Province” statement.
Military insurgency in North Sinai is on the rise, despite frequent reports by the state that massive crackdown campaigns are being executed on a daily basis against the militants’ stationing points in North Sinai’s cities of Sheikh Zuwaid, Rafah, and Al-Arish.
“Sinai Province”, previously known as “Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis”, appeared in 2013 in the wake of the ouster of Islamist former president Mohamed Morsi. In 2014, the group announced its affiliation to IS and declared war against the Egyptian Armed Forces, considering it an “infidel” force that supports Israel and prevents the establishment of real caliphate.
According to multiple video messages that have been released during the last three years, the “Sinai Province” ideology is founded on portraying Egypt’s army, among other Arab armies, as “apostate” forces and that fighting these forces is a “necessity” in order to establish the caliphate.
Therefore, the group has launched violent attacks on several army and security checkpoints in North Sinai. Moreover, it followed a new war strategy of kidnapping civilians whom they suspected to be army and police collaborators.
Recently, “Sinai Province” slaughtered two elderly men who were known as prominent wise men in Al-Arish city. The group had accused them of being “infidels” and decapitated them, before publishing photos of the process on social media.