Islamic State (IS) militants launched a wide-scale coordinated assault on several military checkpoints in Egypt’s North Sinai on Wednesday in which 50 people were killed, security sources said.
Egyptian army F-16 jets and Apache helicopters strafed the region that lies within the Sinai Peninsula, a strategic area located between Israel, the Gaza Strip and the Suez Canal.
It was the second high-profile attack in Egypt this week. On Monday, the Prosecutor-General was killed in a car bombing in Cairo.
The attacks raise questions about the government’s ability to contain a Sinai-based insurgency that has already killed hundreds of police and soldiers.
IS’ Egyptian affiliate, Sinai Province, claimed responsibility for the Sinai attacks in a message posted on the social media.
The army said five checkpoints were attacked by about 70 militants and that soldiers had destroyed three land cruisers fitted with anti-aircraft guns.
Without giving a breakdown, the army spokesman said the death toll among soldiers and attackers had increased.
The militants have previously carried out some big attacks that killed scores of security personnel but in general they have focused on smaller-scale targets.
Wednesday’s incident, in which fighting raged for more than eight hours, marks the biggest onslaught yet.
The exact breakdown of identities of those killed was not immediately clear.
Security sources said at least 36 people, including soldiers, policemen and civilians were killed and 38 militants were also killed.
The army spokesman initially said 10 soldiers were killed or wounded and 22 attackers were killed. He later added that the number of deaths had increased on both sides.