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Ten Egyptian soldiers, including an army officer, died in a bomb attack during the holy month of Ramadan in the volatile northern Sinai region of the country. The region is known for its jihadist insurrection and it is suspected this attack was carried out by Islamic State although no one immediately claimed responsibility.
A spokesman for the army said the soldiers were targeted as they travelled in convoy near the town of Bir al-Abed on Thursday. The Egyptian army has been fighting an insurgency from the Sinai branch of IS since 2013. Fighting has intensified since the ousting of Mohamed Morsi that year.
Since the Egyptian military moved into the region, official figures show that more than 845 jihadists and nearly 70 members of the security forces have lost their lives. However, it is impossible to verify these figures, as the region is cut off from media access.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi praised the fallen soldiers as “heroes” and “martyrs.”
Footballer Mohamed Salah was among those commenting on the incident, as he wrote on Twitter: “May God have mercy on the martyrs of the homeland in the Sinai and my wishes for a speedy recovery for all the injured.”
This is not the first time the footballer has paid tribute to those who have died fighting in the region. In 2017, following the deaths of 311 victims in a terrorist gun attack on the Sinai mosque, the Liverpool player scored a goal against his former club Chelsea, but chose not to celebrate out of respect.
In response to the attack, the Egyptian forces killed two jihadists in the region on Friday. An army spokesman said the suspects died in an exchange of fire in a farming area and that arms, ammunition and walkie-talkies were seized.
Most extremist attacks have occurred in marginalised northern Sinai, but militants have also struck at police officers, troops and other high-profile targets in the mainland. Earlier this month, a police officer and seven suspected militants were killed in a firefight in the capital of Cairo, amid warnings of potential terrorist attacks against Coptic Christians at Easter.