Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has declared a state of emergency in the North Sinai hours after at least 33 soldiers were killed and 30 injured in two separate attacks.
The state of emergency will last three months and include a curfew between 5PM and 7AM.
According to state media, at least 30 soldiers were killed and 30 injured after 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 at a security checkpoint near Al-Arish.
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 had commenced with the targeting of multiple hideouts and areas using Apache helicopters.
As part of the military operation, the Rafah border crossing with Gaza was shut down indefinitely. Following the attacks, Egypt’s President also declared three days of national mourning.
Meanwhile, at least 10 conscripts were injured during a raid after their armoured personnel vehicle overturned, reported local media.
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.