ISMAILIA - Three Egyptian policemen died on Saturday when gunmen fired on their car in the northern Sinai Peninsula city of al-Arish before escaping, security sources said.
Two policemen died at the scene of the attack on the suburbs of
al-Arish, the administrative center of North Sinai, while one of the
other two injured died at the hospital later after the attack, medical
and security sources said.
A police source said the attackers were probably Islamist militants who Egyptian forces have been hunting - the biggest security crackdown the region near Israel has seen in decades - following the killing of 16 border guards on August 5.
The August 5 attack - the deadliest in Sinai since Egypt's 1973 war with Israel - prompted the government to send in hundreds of troops backed by tanks, armored vehicles and helicopters in a joint operation with police to raid militant hideouts, arrest suspects and seize weapons.
Security in the increasingly lawless Sinai Peninsula continued to be a pressing issue in both Egypt and Israel this week, with threats to both countries from the al-Qaida-affiliated Salafist jihadi groups who have found fertile breeding grounds in Sinai since the Egyptian revolution.
On Thursday, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Freedom and Justice Party demanded law enforcement authorities move to regain control of security in Sinai – following a week of reports of terrorist activity in the troubled peninsula.
Over the past months, al-Qaida-linked groups have conducted a series of deadly terrorist attacks against both Egyptian and Israeli interests on the border, including the September 21 shootout that killed 20-year-old Cpl. Netanel Yahalomi.
Meanwhile, Egyptian authorities’ arrest last week of a terror cell in Nasr City suspected to be linked to al-Qaida has heightened fears in both countries that extremists are expanding out of Sinai and into other areas of Egypt.
Those fears are also bolstered by increasing efforts by al-Qaida to align itself with extremist Salafist and jihadi elements across the Arab world, including Egypt.
Joanna Paraszczuk contributed to this report.