At least eight Egyptian security personnel were killed on Wednesday in the Sinai Peninsula, the centre of a long-running militant insurgency, the interior ministry confirmed. Other sources place the death toll at 10 officials.

The officials say the militants attacked the checkpoint, seized an armoured vehicle to make their getaway but a warplane chased them in the desert, killing at least five.
The officials say the militants attacked the checkpoint, seized an armoured vehicle to make their getaway but a warplane chased them in the desert, killing at least five. (AFP)

Militants killed at least eight Egyptian policemen on Wednesday at a checkpoint in the Sinai Peninsula, the centre of a long-running militant insurgency, the interior ministry said.

"Terrorist elements targeted a checkpoint west of El Arish early this morning... The exchange of fire killed fire terrorist elements and eight police were martyred," a ministry statement said.

Some militants escaped and security forces are following "their movements", the ministry added.

The attack took place as Muslims in the city of El Arish were holding prayers marking the holiday of Eid al Fitr, which follows the holy month of Ramadan, early in the morning.

Two officers and eight conscripts were among those killed, according to security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to reporters.

Another security source said reinforcements had been dispatched to the checkpoint near El Arish, capital of North Sinai province.

"The checkpoint is currently surrounded by the army and police," he said.

A medical source said three members of the Central Security Force, a paramilitary force under the control of the interior ministry, were also wounded in the attack and taken to El Arish public hospital.

Egyptian state television said there were fears the death toll could rise as there were reports of attacks on multiple checkpoints.

Militancy in Sinai

Egyptian forces have long been battling militants behind a series of attacks on security forces and civilians in northern Sinai.

The Egyptian army and police launched a major security campaign against militants in February last year, following an attack in November 2017 on a mosque in which hundreds of worshippers died. 

The insurgency has occasionally spilt over to the mainland, striking minority Christians and occasionally tourists.

The insurgency grew deadlier and militant attacks more frequent after the military's 2013 ouster of an elected but divisive president, Mohammed Morsi.

At the centre of the militant campaign is a Daesh affiliate, based in Sinai. The Egyptian militant group had sworn allegiance to Daesh at the height of its power in Iraq and Syria in 2014. 

Daesh has now been mostly defeated and all the territory it once controlled in both Syria and Iraq taken back and liberated.

Source: Reuters