EL-ARISH, Egypt – Militants from an Islamic State affiliate ambushed a convoy of cement trucks late Thursday from an army factory in the central Sinai Peninsula, killing eight civilian employees and two soldiers, security officials said.
Lt. Col. Ibrahim Hussein Mohammed was killed in the nighttime attack near the town of Nakhl, the officials added. The militants, from the group formerly known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, stole the men’s weapons and burnt seven trucks.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters. IS did not immediately claim responsibility for the attack.
Security forces have been battling militants in northern Sinai for years in an insurgency that picked up after the 2013 military ouster of an elected but divisive Islamist president.
Egypt is also facing a growing number of attacks by militants in its Western Desert, the latest of which killed 16 policemen according to an official tally issued by the Interior Ministry. Security officials, however, have told journalists that dozens more, including high-ranking counterterrorism officers, perished in the Oct. 20 attack some 135 kilometres (84 miles) southwest of the capital, Cairo.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi says IS militants are making their way to his country via Libya after the defeat of the extremist group in Syria and Iraq.
The regional turmoil has forced Egypt to build up its military in recent years according to the general-turned-president, who has spent more than $10 billion since 2014 on a wide array of weaponry, including French-made Rafale fighter jets and helicopter carriers, MiG-29 fighter jets and assault helicopters from Russia, and submarines from Germany.
Most of the attacks in Sinai take place in a contested northeastern corner of the peninsula near the Gaza Strip. But army and police raids deeper into the area’s central mountains have sparked violence and militant attacks further south.