EL-ARISH, Egypt (AP) — Suspected militants on Sunday targeted a police vehicle in the turbulent northern part of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing two conscripts, according to security and hospital officials, as the country’s defense minister vowed in an impassioned live broadcast to “cleanse” Egypt of militancy.
The officials said the militants disabled the police truck with a roadside bomb detonated remotely then opened fire. A total of 10 conscripts were wounded in the attack on the outskirts of el-Arish, Sinai’s largest city on the Mediterranean coast, they added.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
Security forces have been battling militants in northern Sinai for years in an insurgency that gathered steam after the 2013 ouster by the military of an Islamist and freely elected president, Mohammed Morsi, whose one-year rule proved divisive. The insurgency is led by a local affiliate of the extremist Islamic State group.
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, which is in charge of police. Security officials, however, told The Associated Press that more than 50 policemen, including high-ranking counterterrorism officers, perished in the Oct. 20 attack some 135 kilometers (84 miles) southwest of Cairo, the capital.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack, which led to a major shakeup in the military and the country’s large and militarized police force over the weekend.
Sunday’s comments by Defense Minister Sedki Sobhi were his first since general-turned-president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi replaced the military’s chief of staff late Saturday. No official reason was given for the change, which saw the outgoing chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Mahmoud Hegazy, named as a presidential adviser.
Addressing a military ceremony held in the Red Sea port city of Suez and attended by el-Sissi, Sobhi said: “The men of the armed forces will with decisiveness and deterrence counter any attempt to create chaos on Egypt’s borders … we will be ready for them until Egypt is cleansed of this scourge.”