Islamic State (IS) group jihadi launched an unprecedented wave of attacks Wednesday on Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula that killed at least 70 people, in a major challenge to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
F-16 warplanes bombarded the militants as they fought police and soldiers on the streets of the North Sinai town of Sheikh Zuweid after striking military checkpoints in a surprise attack after dawn.
Explosions were heard and plumes of smoke were seen over Sheikh Zuweid from the neighbouring Palestinian Gaza Strip, witnesses there said.
The violence came two days after state prosecutor Hisham Barakat was assassinated in a Cairo car bombing. He was the most senior government official killed in the jihadist insurgency.
In the capital on Wednesday, police killed senior Muslim Brotherhood member Nasser al-Houfi and eight others during a raid on an apartment, security officials and a member of the Islamist movement said.
The Sinai attacks, in which car bombs were used, were the most brazen in their scope since jihadis launched an insurgency in 2013 following the army’s overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. Sisi, the former army chief who toppled Morsi, won polls last year pledging to wipe out militants.
The victims included several civilians, according to security and medical officials, who said 38 militants were also killed. “It’s war. The battle is ongoing,” a senior military official said. “It’s unprecedented, in the number of terrorists involved and the type of weapons they are using,” he added.