Map showing the location of Bir al-Abed, Egypt
Map showing the location of Bir al-Abed, Egypt

More than half a dozen people were reportedly killed Friday during a terrorist attack on an Egyptian military checkpoint near the northern Sinai town of Bir al-Abed. The Islamic State group reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack.   

Amateur video showed ambulances -- sirens blaring -- rushing to the checkpoint which faces an apple orchard outside Bir al-Abed. It was not the first time that the area has come under attack by terrorists.

The Egyptian military issued a statement in response saying that it has exacted a heavy toll on terrorists in the northern Sinai in recent weeks, killing 118 of them, destroying their armored vehicles, motorcycles, and hideouts, but that it has also lost a number of its own men.

An Egyptian military spokesman said that nine soldiers and one officer were killed or wounded during fighting while conducting searches. VOA could not independently confirm how many were killed.

Social media websites showed pictures of at least five Egyptian soldiers who were reportedly killed in Friday's attack.

Reuters news agency reported that Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack on the Egyptian military checkpoint. It was not clear from which country the terrorist group issued its declaration.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi told the annual opening session of the U.N. General Assembly earlier this week that more needs to be done to fight terrorism and that countries that support it should be sanctioned.
He said terrorism is the scourge of our times and that it is necessary to hold everyone accountable for supporting terrorists.

Egyptian media has frequently accused both Qatar and Turkey of supporting Islamic State and other terrorist groups.  A Turkish newspaper showed photos of what it said were Turkish intelligence personnel sending weapons to IS in Syria several years ago, before the newspaper was shut down and the journalists who wrote the article were arrested.

Egyptian political sociologist Said Sadek told VOA that he thinks that both Friday's terrorist attack and efforts to spark popular protests were coming from groups and media outlets in Turkey, Qatar and Iran. He points to an audio recording aired by Arab media of a Muslim Brotherhood figure based in Istanbul, Turkey speaking with an Egyptian activist about fomenting protests against President Sissi.  Egypt outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013.

Sadek said he thinks that both the terrorist attack and the protests were "an attempt to draw attention away from internal social and economic problems in Iran and distract international media away from covering the crisis in the Gulf."

In a separate development, Arab media reported that death sentences against terrorists involved in an ambush in the town of Helwan several years ago were handed down Saturday and that they need final approval by Egypt's mufti before being carried out. 

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