CAIRO: Egypt’s interim government pledged “decisive” action and ordered heightened security on Sunday after gunmen killed six soldiers at a Cairo checkpoint, as the countdown began to presidential elections this spring.
The shooting on Saturday morning came two days after gunmen killed a soldier in Cairo, as militants once based in the Sinai Peninsula widen attacks that surged after the army overthrew Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July.
The government is preparing for a presidential election this spring that will likely be contested and won by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the field marshal who overthrew Morsi.
Sisi is expected to resign as defense minister and army chief and announce his candidacy this week, following the interim president’s approval of a law to organize the poll.
His supporters see him as the best suited leader to restore stability and law and order amid persistent militant attacks and street protests by Morsi’s supporters.
In Saturday’s attack, masked gunmen opened fire on military policemen as they were finishing their morning Muslim prayers and then planted two bombs to target first responders, the military said in a statement.
The health ministry said six soldiers were killed.
In an emergency meeting that ended early Sunday morning, the cabinet decided to “decisively confront whoever attacks citizens and civilian and government installations,” it said in a statement.
It emphasized that attacks on the army would be dealt with by military courts, in accordance with a constitution approved in a referendum in January.
The government also ordered heightened security measures to counter what has become a low-level insurgency that has killed more 200 soldiers and policemen since Morsi’s overthrow.
Most of the attacks since have been carried out in the Sinai, but militants have expanded their reach to the Nile Delta and the capital in recent months.
The government has mostly blamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which renounced violence decades ago and has denied any involvement.