The ISIS extremist group claimed an attack that killed eight Egyptian policemen in the restive Sinai Peninsula on Wednesday, as the country marked the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr.
“ISIS fighters this morning launched two simultaneous attacks on two police checkpoints in the city of El-Arish,” said a statement released by the extremist group’s propaganda wing, Amaq.
It claimed that 10 policemen were killed in the two attacks; one on a checkpoint south of El-Arish and another on a second checkpoint in a “nearby area”.
It said the twin operation was designed to “divide” the attention of security forces and give militants enough time to pull back before reinforcements arrived.
The country’s interior ministry said eight Egyptian policeman were killed in an attack on the northeastern region, a hotbed of a years-long insurgency by militants, some linked to ISIS.
Egyptian state television said there were fears the death toll could rise, amid reports of attacks on multiple checkpoints.
Amaq said the operation also aimed to undermine attempts by Egyptian police to portray El-Areesh as being safe from ISIS attacks.
Egypt has for years been battling North Sinai insurgents affiliated with the ISIS extremist group.
Hundreds of police officers and soldiers have been killed in attacks which surged after the army’s ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
The interior ministry said last month it had intelligence that militants were planning attacks on “important and vital facilities,” as well as prominent figures in El-Arish.
In late 2017, North Sinai was the scene of the deadliest extremist attack in Egypt’s modern history when militants killed more than 300 worshippers at a mosque, without any group claiming responsibility.
In February 2018, the army launched a nationwide offensive against the Islamists, focused mainly on the North Sinai.
According to official figures, around 650 militants have been killed since the start of the operation, while the army has lost some 50 soldiers.