el-Arish, Egypt
el-Arish, Egypt

CAIRO - Egypt says Terrorists killed seven members of its security forces during three attacks on checkpoints near the northern Sinai town of el-Arish. 

The Interior Ministry said Four terrorists, including a man thought to be a suicide bomber, were also killed during ensuing gunbattles, which occurred late Tuesday.  

Qatari-owned Al Jazeera TV reported that the Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for the attacks on its Amaq website. VOA could not independently confirm the claim, nor is it clear who is behind the website. 

Ashmawi trial

Meanwhile, Egyptian state TV said the attacks coincided with the start of the trial of suspected officer-turned-terrorist Hisham al-Ashmawi, who last month was handed over to the Egyptian military by Libyan armed forces loyal to Gen. Khalifa Hafter. Ashmawi is wanted in connection with several high-profile attacks in recent years, including the 2015 explosion that killed General Prosecutor Hisham Barakat. Ashmawi was captured in Derna, Libya, last October. 
Hilal Khashan, who teaches political science at the American University of Beirut, told VOA he didn’t think that the Sinai attack was related to Ashmawi’s trial or other ongoing events, including the conference in Bahrain aimed at ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Khashan said he thought the "insurgents in the northern Sinai launch attacks wherever they are capable," and that they cannot mount operations "on a daily basis." Therefore, he said, "if the attacks take place during the conference in Bahrain, this is coincidental." 
Khashan said he thought the "main support for the insurgents is coming from the Sinai Bedouin." He said the Egyptian government had "failed to integrate the Bedouin into Egyptian society" and had not been "sympathetic to their social or economic plight." 

Others blamed

Egyptian media, however, accuse other countries and groups, including Iran, Qatar, Turkey, Hezbollah and Hamas, of supporting the militants. Al Jazeera TV said the militants were "driving 10 four-wheel-drive vehicles" during the attacks. It was not clear how such vehicles could have been brought into the Sinai without the help of an outside country. 
Several anti-Egyptian websites also claimed the Sinai attacks were related to the sudden collapse and death of ousted former President Mohammed Morsi in a Cairo courtroom June 17. 

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