Egyptian soldiers killed in North Sinai attack

By Mohammed Mahmoud in Cairo

Egyptian military vehicles take part in counter-terrorism operations in North Sinai. [Photo courtesy of Egypt's Interior Ministry]

Egyptian military vehicles take part in counter-terrorism operations in North Sinai. [Photo courtesy of Egypt's Interior Ministry]

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi denounced a deadly Thursday (April 30th) terror attack in North Sinai and mourned the soldiers who lost their lives, vowing that Egypt and its army "will hold out with strength and faith".

Ten Egyptian soldiers were killed or wounded Thursday when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated underneath the armoured vehicle they were travelling in, south of Bir al-Abed, military spokesman Tamer al-Rifaie said.

He did not provide further details, other than to say that one officer, one non-commissioned officer and eight soldiers had been killed or wounded in the attack.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Egyptian forces have been engaged in an ongoing operation to oust the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) and other extremists from the Sinai peninsula.

The attack came in the first week of the holy month of Ramadan, and as the first case of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infection was reported in North Sinai.

"The armed forces stress that their combat operations against terrorists will continue in order to protect Egypt's security and stability," the Egyptian military said in a statement.

"The hands of treachery have reached our heroes south of Bir al-Abed," al-Sisi said in a social media post. "The forces of evil are still trying to hijack this homeland."

He vowed that "the sons of Egypt and its strong army" would persevere in their fight, however, saying: "We are capable of crushing the hopes of those malicious, treacherous souls."

Egypt's cabinet also issued a statement mourning the dead and expressing the "Egyptian people's appreciation of the efforts exerted by the men of the military to safeguard the country", Ahram Online reported.

Religious authorities condemn attack

"The acts of terrorist groups run counter to all Islamic teachings, which encourage people to preserve souls and reconstruct Earth," Egypt's Dar al-Iftaa Fatwa Observatory said in a statement following the attack.

Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayeb also condemned the attack.

In a statement, he said such attacks "are criminal acts that show the malice of their perpetrators, strip them of the simplest meanings of humanity and demonstrate their total disregard of the sanctity of blood in this holy month".

"The despicable attempts of terrorist groups to undermine the security and stability of this country will not stop," Egyptian MP Ayman Abul Ela said. "But these attempts are doomed to fail because of the heroism of the armed forces."

"The Egyptian people support the armed forces in their heroic war on terror in order to defend our homeland," he said.

Al-Sisi had on Tuesday ordered the renewal for three months of a long-running state of emergency, citing health as well as security concerns.

Egyptian health authorities on Thursday recorded the first coronavirus case in North Sinai, Ahram Online reported.

The patient is being isolated at a hospital in Bir al-Abed to receive treatment, the provincial health directorate said in a statement.

North Sinai had been the only Egyptian province with no confirmed coronavirus cases since the detection of the first infection in the country in mid-February.

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