CAIRO: Egypt imposed a state of emergency on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) across parts of the Sinai Peninsula as the military pounded suspected jihadists after a suicide car bombing there killed 30 soldiers.
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said that the suicide bombing, by a suspected jihadist, which killed 30 soldiers in the Sinai peninsula was carried out with “external support.”
The suicide attack was the deadliest on Egyptian security forces since the army deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last year, to the fury of his supporters.
The state of emergency in the north and center of the Sinai will remain in place for three months, the president’s office said.
A curfew is in force from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.
Egypt also announced it would close the Rafah crossing into the Gaza Strip, the only entry to the Palestinian territory not controlled by Israel.
Witnesses told Agence France-Presse that new security checkpoints were erected in Rafah and the north Sinai town of Sheikh Zuweid.
“The army and police will take all necessary measures to tackle the dangers of terrorism and its financing, to preserve the security of the region and protect the lives of citizens,” a presidential decree said.
Despite killing or arresting many militants, the army has so far been unable to eradicate them in a massive operation involving attack helicopters and tanks.
The military launched fresh air strikes on Saturday in northern Sinai, killing eight suspected militants, security officials said.
Sisi, the army chief who toppled Morsi and was later elected head of state, chaired a meeting of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces also on Saturday.
After the meeting, the president said Friday’s attack was carried out with “external support” in order to “break the will of the Egyptian people and army.”
‘Reinforce the struggle against terrorism’
“A committee comprising senior army officials was formed to examine the latest terrorist attacks in Sinai… in order to reinforce the struggle against terrorism,” a statement said.
And the government announced a bill that would bring under the jurisdiction of military tribunals “matters of terrorism linked to attacks on army and police installations and personnel, as well as vandalism and the blocking of roads,” it added.
The European Union and United States both denounced the latest incident, with the State Department saying “a prosperous and dynamic Egypt requires an environment of security and stability.”
In a separate statement, the US defense Department in a strongly condemned the suicide attack and stressed its support for “Egypt’s efforts to counter the threat of terrorism.”
Security officials said the 30 victims were killed when a suspected jihadist rammed his explosives-packed vehicle into a checkpoint in El-Arish, the main town in north Sinai.
Medics said 29 others, including a senior army officer and five others, were also wounded.
On Saturday, the body of a soldier who disappeared after Friday’s attack was found riddled with bullets, security officials said.
Gunmen also shot dead an officer and wounded two soldiers Friday at another checkpoint south of El-Arish, security officials said.
Jihadists in the peninsula have killed scores of policemen and soldiers since Morsi’s overthrow to avenge a bloody police crackdown on his supporters.
The latest bombing came after an Egyptian military court sentenced to death seven members of Ansar Beit al-Maqdis Tuesday for deadly attacks on the army.
Since Morsi’s ouster, more than 1,400 of his supporters have been killed in a crackdown by the authorities. More than 15,000 others have been jailed, including Morsi, and over 200 sentenced to death.