At least 31 Egyptian soldiers dead, 28 wounded in latest attacks. Are more coming? Is Jordan next?
All eyes have been riveted on the ISIS offensive in Syria and Iraq in recent months. But Radical Islamic jihadists are also intensifying their operations against other countries in the region. I’m particularly concerned that Jordan will be the focus of such attacks soon. But right now, Egypt is in the crosshairs.
Here is the latest. Please be praying for the people of Egypt — for calm and stability, as well as increased freedom and opportunity. Please pray also for the embattled Christians there.
“Two attacks on Egyptian military positions in the Sinai Peninsula on Friday killed at least 31 soldiers, according to security officials and the state news media,” the New York Times is reporting.
The first attack killed at least 28 soldiers, making it the deadliest assault on the Egyptian military in many years and the biggest defeat in its 15-month battle against Sinai-based Islamist militants that began with the military’s ouster of President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July 2013. At least 28 others were wounded, the state news media said.
The scale of the attack underscored the difficult challenge the Egyptian government continues to face in re-establishing firm control of northern Sinai, near the border with Israel and the Gaza Strip. Egyptian officials have said repeatedly that they have largely contained the insurgency there, but the complexity of Friday’s attack, said to involve multiple vehicles and heavy weapons, suggested that the militants were growing more sophisticated.
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who led the military takeover last year, convened an emergency meeting of Egypt’s top generals in response to the attack. He declared a state of emergency in parts of Sinai, including a curfew from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m.
In Washington, Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement that ‘the United States strongly condemns the terrorist attack.’ She added, ‘The United States continues to support the Egyptian government’s efforts to counter the threat of terrorism in Egypt as part of our commitment to the strategic partnership between our two countries.’
The first, larger attack took place about 2 p.m. Friday near the town of Sheikh Zuwaid, a hub of Islamist militancy where insurgents sometimes set up their own temporary checkpoints on the highways. The target of the attack was a heavily guarded army checkpoint at a desert-road intersection known as Karm al Qawadis, where the military typically keeps six armored vehicles, two tanks and a tent camp, residents said.
Unlike most previous attacks, this one was carried out in two stages. A car bomb initially killed as many as 18 soldiers, according to residents and security officials. Then, when soldiers rushed to the scene, armed men on foot and in a vehicle opened fired, killing at least 10 more.
A Sinai official told The Associated Press that the militants used rocket-propelled grenades, among other weapons. A mortar round set off a second explosion by striking a tank containing explosives and ammunition….
Militants have also continued to set off bombs periodically in Cairo. An explosion this week near Cairo University wounded at least 11 people — six of them security officers. A bomb outside the Foreign Ministry late last month killed two police officers.