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November 20, 2013

Car Bomb Kills at Least 11 Egyptian Soldiers in Sinai

by Edward Yeranian

At least 11 soldiers were killed Wednesday in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, the latest attack in a region where the military is trying to crack down on a growing jihadist insurgency.

Witnesses say Egyptian Army helicopters carried out intense overflights in the northern Sinai, scouring the region where a car bomb went off early Wednesday, killing 11 soldiers. It was the worst attack since militants ambushed a police bus in August, killing 25 policemen.

Army spokesman Colonel Ahmed Mohamed Ali blasted what he called “black terrorism,” vowing that the military would pursue its “war” against Islamist militants. Interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi called the attack a “blatant sin” and said the government was studying ways to fight back.

Exact details of the bombing are sketchy because foreign correspondents are not allowed to travel to the northern Sinai, and cell phones, land lines and the Internet remain cut. Al-Arabiya TV reported that the soldiers were returning to the Rafah border post after a brief vacation.

An Islamist militant group calling itself Beit al-Maqdis, which is made up of militants from the northern Sinai and the Gaza Strip, posted a video overnight claiming responsibly for a suicide bombing against Egyptian security headquarters in the south Sinai last month. It was not immediately clear if the group was responsible for Wednesday's attack.

In another video posted recently, al-Qaida leader Ayman Zawahiri condemned what he called the “secular Egyptian military,” blaming it for overthrowing Islamist President Mohamed Morsi and other acts of bloodshed in recent months. He also claimed that it was responsible for several historic military defeats against Israel.

In another attack against Egyptian police overnight, an officer said an explosive device went off as a police patrol was traveling in the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya. Three policemen were slightly wounded in that blast.