At least 52 Egyptian troops and police officers were killed in clashes with Islamic militants on Friday in the Bahariya Oasis in the nation’s Western Desert, security and medical sources said.
A statement from the Egyptian Ministry of the Interior confirmed the incident and said that some of the attackers had died, without giving any figures for casualties or further details.
Security forces, who are hunting down militants in the region, were late on Friday ambushed on a road to the oasis, about 200km southeast of Cairo, the statement said.
The convoy was hit by rocket fire, a source close to the security services said, adding that the attackers also used explosive devices.
There has not yet been a claim of responsibility.
A false claim by the small extremist group Hasm, reported by multiple local media, spread on social media soon after the attack, but the group’s official Twitter feed, where it routinely shares statements, has been dormant since Oct. 2.
Since the army removed former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, extremist groups have increased their attacks on the nation’s military and police.
The Brotherhood, once Egypt’s largest opposition movement, has long denied involvement in violence.
Morsi was elected as Egypt’s first civilian president in 2012, but the army overthrew him a year later following mass protests against his divisive rule.
Since then, an extensive crackdown on the group has left it in disarray with competing wings that have disagreed on whether to use violence, after police quashed their protests.
Analysts say a section of the Brotherhood has encouraged armed assaults against policemen in Egypt.
Hasm has claimed multiple attacks since last year on police, officials and judges in Cairo.
In their statements, none of the militant groups claim any affiliation to the Brotherhood.
Authorities have also been fighting the Egyptian branch of the Islamic State group, which has increased its attacks in the north of the Sinai Peninsula.
Hundreds of soldiers and police have been killed in the violence. The Islamic State group’s deadly attacks on the military and police include an assault on a checkpoint in Sinai on July 7 that killed at least 21 soldiers.
The group has maintained a steady war of attrition with sniper attacks and roadside bombings.
However, unlike their parent organization in Iraq and Syria, they have been unable to seize population centers in the peninsula bordering Israel and Gaza.
In October 2015, the group claimed the bombing of a Russian airliner carrying travelers from the popular South Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, killing all 224 people on board.
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