President Al-Sisi has announced three days of national mourning after at least 31 soldiers were killed and 30 injured in two separate attacks on Friday in the North Sinai town of Sheikh Zuweid.
According to CBC, a local satellite channel, 28 soldiers were killed and 30 injured after a car bomb targeted a military checkpoint.
According to initial reports, a suicide bomber rammed a vehicle packed with explosives into a military checkpoint, killing the soldiers, primarily in their twenties, that had been stationed at the Karm Al-Qawadees checkpoint.
Hours later, three security officials were killed when militants opened fire on a security checkpoint near Al-Arish.
State media has reported clashes near where 28 soldiers were killed. Heavily armed militants, armed with grenades, rockets and automatic rifles, reportedly attacked reinforcements at the military checkpoint after the initial car bomb.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Defence has commenced a ‘large military operation’ in Egypt’s Sinai to locate and target extremist militant groups. According to local media, the operation has commenced with the targeting of multiple hideouts and areas using Apache helicopters.
Health officials have meanwhile warned that the death toll may rise as many of those wounded remain in critical condition.
Following the attack, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has called for an emergency meeting with the National Security Council to discuss developments.
This is the deadliest attack on Egyptian soldiers since August 2013, when 25 Egyptian soldiers were killed in the border city of Rafah while returning home to their families for a holiday.
In July 2014, 21 soldiers were killed in an attack reportedly carried out by arms smugglers in Egypt’s Farafra Oasis near Libya.
In August 2012, another deadly attack killed 16 Egyptian soldiers in Rafah as they were breaking their Ramadan fast during sunset. The August 2012 attack led to the removal of Defence Minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi and his replacement with Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, who came to power as Egypt’s President in June 2014.
Since the ouster of former President Mohammed Morsi, the Sinai has witnessed a wave of violence, often targeting security forces.
A fact-sheet prepared by Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs put the death toll for terrorism acts which took place since January 2011 and until April 2014 at 971, including 664 security personnel.