Excerpt. Egypt Declares Emergency in North Sinai. ABCNews via AP
A coordinated assault on an army checkpoint in the Sinai Peninsula killed 30 Egyptian troops on Friday, making it the deadliest single attack in decades on the military, which has been struggling to stem a wave of violence by Islamic extremists since the overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.
Officials described it as "well-planned" attack that began with a car bomb which may have been set off by a suicide attacker. Other militants then fired rocket-propelled grenades, striking a tank carrying ammunition and igniting a secondary explosion. Roadside bombs intended to target rescuers struck two army vehicles, seriously wounding a senior officer.
State-run TV said clashes between troops and militants followed the bombing, without providing further details. The car bomb exploded at the check point at around 3:30 p.m. Cairo time, and took place some 9 miles (15 kilometers) from the northern Sinai city of el-Arish, in an area called Karm el-Qawadees.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but officials said the assault bore the hallmarks of the country's most active militant group — named Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, or Champions of Jerusalem — which has claimed a string of past attacks on security forces.
The officials said the death toll is expected to rise because 28 people were wounded and several were in critical condition.
Egypt's National Defense Council declared a three-month state of emergency in areas near borders with Israel and the Gaza Strip in the northern part of Sinai Peninsula and ordered a three-hour curfew starting Saturday. State TV also announced closure of the Rafah crossing, Gaza's only non-Israeli passage to outside world.
Headed by Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the council vowed that the army would take "revenge for the shedding of dear blood." It instructed authorities to take measures which it described necessary to protect lives of civilians.
El-Sissi, the former defense minister and army chief who overthrew Morsi last year, announced a three-day mourning period. He has said in the past that the militants hide in populated areas, making it difficult for the military to combat them.
The United Nations Security Council released a statement condemning the attack and reiterated its determination to combat all forms of terrorism.
"The members of the Security Council underlined the need to bring perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of this terrorist attack to justice," the statement said.
An official said the government is considering the eviction of residents living in small northern Sinai villages that are considered the "most dangerous" militant bastions, and declaring certain areas to be closed military zones. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to media.
The TV presenters dressed in black and displayed a black ribbon at the top of the screen while patriotic songs played.
Egypt's official news agency MENA said military helicopters ferried the dead and wounded to Cairo hospitals. Egypt's top Islamic authority, Grand Mufti Shawki Allam, condemned the attacks and said those who carry out acts of terrorism "deserve God's wrath on Earth and at the end of days."
Islamic militants have been battling security forces in the Sinai for a decade, but the violence spiked after the military overthrew Morsi in July 2013 amid massive protests demanding his resignation. Suicide bombings and assassinations have also spread to other parts of Egypt, with militants targeting police in Cairo and the Nile Delta.