Eight Egyptian soldiers and 14 militants were killed in fighting in central Sinai on Saturday when gunmen carrying explosive belts and grenades targeted a military checkpoint, the army said.
The attack was the largest against Egyptian security forces since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi won a second term in office last month, promising to work for stability and security in Egypt.
It also came just hours after the country extended a state of emergency imposed a year ago.
The militants attacked the checkpoint at around dawn, an army statement said. Four of them detonated their explosive belts, killing the soldiers and wounding 15 others, it added.
Egypt has been fighting an Islamist insurgency in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula since Sisi ousted Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013, after popular protests against Mursi’s rule.
Sisi in November ordered the military to defeat militants in north Sinai within three months, after an attack on a mosque that killed more than 300 people, the deadliest such incident in the Arab world’s most populous country.
The military launched what it said was a major operation against the militants in February, a month before Sisi was re-elected in a vote featuring just one other candidate, a strong supporter of the president.of the president.
In other news meanwhile, an Egyptian court upheld on Saturday a life sentence against Mohamed Badie, the leader of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, over 2013 violence, judicial sources said.
The court of cassation, Egypt’s top court, rejected an appeal by Badie and others against verdicts issued against them last May in the case known in local media as “the Rabaa Operations Room” trial.
The case relates to a sit-in in Rabaa to support ousted President Mohamed Mursi who hailed from the Muslim Brotherhood. The sit-in, which began after the army ousted Mursi following mass protests against his rule, was forcibly dispersed by security forces, leaving hundreds dead.
Badie and two others were sentenced to life imprisonment in the case, 15 others were sentenced to five years while 21 people were acquitted, sources said.
The defendants were charged with leading an illegally founded organization, plotting to stir chaos and publishing false news among other crimes.
Authorities outlawed the Brotherhood after Mursi was ousted, and arrested thousands of its supporters. They also dissolved its Freedom and Justice Party, which Mursi led.
Decisions made by the court of cassation are final and cannot be appealed. Saturday’s life sentence is the third against Badie