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At least 35 policemen are killed in an Islamist ambush in Egypt

Ⓒ AFP/Archivos – Khaled Desouki – | A partial image of the Egyptian city of El Bawity, in the Bahariya Oasis, taken on December 24, 2016. At least 35 policemen were killed in an Islamist ambush on a road leading to the oasis, according to medical and security sources

At least 35 Egyptian policemen were killed south-west of Cairo in an Islamist ambush in the desert, one of the bloodiest balances since the launch in 2013 of a series of extremist attacks on security forces.

Medical and safety sources confirmed that this balance could increase. The attack comes as President Abdul-Fatah al-Sisi was set to attend Saturday’s commemorations of the 75th anniversary of the battle of El Alamein, which marked a decisive victory for allies against fascist forces in World War II.

The head of state maintained his displacement to this city of the north, but nullified other commitments of the day, indicated the presidency to the AFP.

On Saturday, at the access to the area where the clashes took place the day before, two truck drivers who were leaving the ambush told AFP that the security forces were present in a massive way and that “planes were flying over the area “, located less than 200 km from Cairo.

The Interior Ministry said security forces, searching for Islamist militants in the region, were attacked on Friday night on the road leading to the Bahariya oasis. This oasis was once a well-known tourist destination.

Several “terrorists” responsible for the attack were killed in the clashes, the ministry said, without specifying their number. According to a source close to the investigation, the convoy was targeted by rocket fire. The attackers also used explosive devices.

The assault was not claimed. A false claim by the extremist group Hasm, quoted by various media, was broadcast on social networks but the account of the Twitter group, in which its claims are usually broadcast, has been inactive since 2 October.

Since the Armed Forces removed President Mohamed Mursi from the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013, extremist groups have multiplied attacks on the military and police.

Egyptian authorities are fighting especially against the Egyptian branch of the jihadist Islamic State (EI) group, which has been responsible for attacks in the north of the Sinai Peninsula (eastern Egypt).

Hundreds of soldiers and police were killed in these attacks. In their claims, the groups never mention any link with the Muslim Brotherhood.

– A coup to the Armed Forces –

On Friday of last week, six Egyptian soldiers perished at the hands of “terrorist elements” in an attack in northern Sinai. On the same day, the Egyptian branch of the Islamic State group – called “Sinai Province” – had claimed the death of 14 Egyptian soldiers in a double suicide attack carried out the day before at a military base near Al Arish.

In one of the bloodiest, at least 21 soldiers died at a military traffic control post on 7 July. For its part, Hasm claimed since 2016 several attacks against police, officials and judges in Cairo.

Under the impact of severe repression, the Muslim Brotherhood, a powerful movement that for a long time was the main opposition force in Egypt, was divided into several rival tendencies, between supporters and opponents of violent action.

Unlike Iraq or Syria, the EI in Egypt has not been able to seize urban centers. The ultrarradical group also claimed several deadly attacks on Coptic churches in December 2016 and April 2017.

In total more than a hundred Copts died in three attacks in Cairo, Alexandria and Tanta (northern Egypt). President Al Sisi extended for three months, from 12 October and for the second time, the state of emergency, after a series of attacks against Coptic churches.

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