Egypt tightens Sinai security, assesses militant threat

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt has tightened control of crossings from the Sinai peninsula and continued assaults on militants after an Islamist group based there said it tried to kill the interior minister in Cairo last week, the state news agency reported yesterday.

The group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis claimed responsibility on Sunday for Thursday’s suicide bombing aimed at Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim. It promised more attacks in revenge for a crackdown on Egypt’s Islamists, raising fears that militant violence in Sinai could spread across the country.

The Egyptian military on Saturday launched a major assault on militants in North Sinai, killing or wounding at least 30 people in clashes close to the Palestinian Gaza Strip.

The assault continued yesterday, with security forces killing nine and arresting 10 “armed elements” near Sinai cities of Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah, state news agency MENA reported early today, citing security sources.

MENA said Ibrahim decided to boost security surveillance and tighten control of crossings from Sinai to other Egyptian regions in conjunction with a broad security campaign in the peninsula.

Earlier, state television said one supporter of deposed Islamist President Mohamed Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood was killed and 10 people were injured in clashes between soldiers and supporters of the group in North Sinai yesterday. Security sources later said two people were killed in the clashes.

In two separate incidents in central Sinai, three soldiers were injured when gunmen opened fire, according to MENA, while security sources said two soldiers were killed in attacks by gunmen in Sinai.

Islamist militancy has risen sharply in the often lawless region adjoining Israel and the Gaza Strip, and elsewhere in Egypt, since the army deposed Mursi two months ago following mass protests against him.

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