Armed forces affiliated to the third field army, which operate between south Sinai and central Sinai, foiled on Friday morning an attack launched by militants believed to be from the Islamic State-affiliated (IS) group “Sinai Province”, killing nine attackers and injuring 16.
According a statement released by the official army spokesperson Tamer El-Refai on Facebook, attacks were launched by a number of extremists on Friday against numerous army checkpoints inside the operational area of the third field army.
Sources from the third field army told Daily News Egypt on Saturday on condition of anonymity that the mutual shooting between the militants and security forces inside the checkpoints also resulted in the death of an army conscript named Mahmoud Gowda.
The attacks were launched targeting three army checkpoints that are part of aerial monitoring battalions affiliated to the air defence forces of the third field army. The first attack struck the 10 Zamzam aerial monitoring station at dawn on Friday, army sources said.
“The first targeted area is based south of El-Hansa City, near central Sinai,” the sources explained. “The attack left four militants killed, and two conscripts injured. The conscripts were transferred to Suez and Maadi Military hospitals.”
Regarding the second attack, forces from two aerial monitoring checkpoints located near El-Agma mountain, near the South Sinai city of Taba, were subjected to heavy attacks at 7am on Friday. The attack was carried out by a large number of militants using heavy weapons, such as rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
According to army sources, the forces based inside the two checkpoints managed to repel the attack, killing two militants and seizing different types of weapons including AK-47s and grenades.
The third attack took place at 10am in El-Malha village in central Sinai. Militants attacked the army checkpoint, using a truck laden with explosives in their attack. Security forces managed to repel the attackers, killing three militants and seizing the truck and many of their weapons. Security forces also found an improvised explosive device, which they believed the militants had been planning on using in the attack.
El-Refai noted that the attacks were abrupt; however, security forces managed to repel all the attackers.
Attacks by the “Sinai Province” most frequently occur in North Sinai, where the second field army is based. The group has in the past frequently targeted military checkpoints in the cities of Al-Arish, Rafah, and the tumultuous city of Sheikh Zuweid.
The IS-affiliated group is believed to be currently adapting a new war strategy that is based on targeting forces across the Sinai Peninsula.
Similarly, the army’s strategy has been to intensify sweeping operations in the areas where suspects from “Sinai Province” are believed to be stationed.
“The second field army has reinforced its checkpoints around North Sinai, to the extent that every kilometre and a half there is an army checkpoint,” army sources said. “These measures have increased pressure and restricted militant operations, so they are now seeking to expand their operations in central and south Sinai.”
Since 2013, state security forces represented by both the army and police have been engaged in violent clashes with “Sinai Province”, known previously as Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis. In 2014, the group declared its affiliation to IS and has launched deadly attacks on army and police checkpoints.
Over the course of the last two years, the Egyptian Armed Forces launched counterattacks against militant stationing points across the Sinai Peninsula, particularly in the cities of Sheikh Zuweid, Rafah, and Al-Arish.