Last updated: 16 September, 2014

Sinai bomb kills six Egypt policemen

A bomb hit an Egyptian security force convoy in the Sinai Peninsula on Tuesday, killing six policemen in the restive region where jihadists launch regular attacks.

Two policemen were also wounded in the attack on the road between North Sinai provincial capital El-Arish and the town of Rafah on the Gaza border, the interior ministry said.

“An explosive device went off near one of the APCs (armoured personnel carriers) of a joint police and army security convoy on the road between El-Arish and Rafah, killing six policemen including an officer and wounding two others,” the ministry said in a statement.

It said security forces had cordoned off the area and an investigation was being carried out.

The attack has not been claimed but the Sinai Peninsula is a hotbed of jihadist groups who regularly attack security forces in retaliation for a government crackdown against Islamist supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi.

The crackdown targeting Morsi’s supporters has left at least 1,400 people dead since his ouster on July 3, 2013.

Then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, after millions protested against the Islamist’s one-year rule.

More than 15,000 Morsi backers and members of his Muslim Brotherhood movement have also been jailed since his ouster.

The authorities say hundreds of police and army personnel have also been killed by jihadists since Morsi’s ouster.

Sisi was later elected president, riding a wave of popularity following the crackdown.

Most attacks against security forces have been spearheaded by Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (Partisans of Jerusalem), an Al-Qaeda-inspired jihadist group based in Sinai which launched rockets into neighbouring Israel.

It says its attacks against security forces are to avenge the killing of hundreds of pro-Morsi protesters.

The group claimed a bombing earlier this month in Sinai that killed 11 policemen. It also recently expressed support to the extremist Islamic State group that has seized territories in Iraq and Syria.

The police and army have launched a massive operation in the region to crush Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, killing scores of militants including several of its leaders.

Ansar Beit al-Maqdis is believed to be led by Bedouin militants, and several of its members who have been killed or arrested had fought alongside Islamist rebels in Syria.

The group adheres to an austere and militant version of Islam shared by Al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups.

The security campaign has inflamed tensions in the historically marginalised Sinai, where Bedouin have long complained of discrimination by the central government in Cairo.

Despite the military and police operation, the militants have persisted in launching sporadic assaults and sometimes even set up impromptu checkpoints to target security personnel.