CAIRO — The Latest on the situation in Egypt and the deadly militant attack in the Sinai Peninsula (all times local):
An Islamic State affiliate in Egypt has claimed responsibility for the attack on a military checkpoint in the country’s Sinai Peninsula earlier in the day that killed 23 soldiers and wounded 33 others.
The group said in an online statement that it used two suicide car bombers and a number of fighters who were willing to die to stage the attack on Friday morning.
It said the attack came as the Egyptian army was preparing an assault against the IS group’s positions in the region.
The authenticity of the statement could not be verified but it was released on twitter as similar claims have been in the past.
The statement further claimed that IS lost only five of its own fighters in the assault.
The United States says it’s strongly condemning the attack in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula that killed at least 23 Egyptian troops.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert says that the U.S. continues “to stand with Egypt as it confronts terrorism.”
Nauert says the U.S. sends its condolences to the families of the victims of Friday’s assault and wishes a speedy recovery to the wounded.
Egyptian officials say the assault started when a suicide car bomber rammed his vehicle into a checkpoint at a military compound in the village of el-Barth, southwest of the border town of Rafah. They say that heavy gunfire then followed from dozens of masked militants on foot.
Egyptian security and medical officials say two civilians were killed and four were wounded when a mortar shell hit their vehicle in the central city of el-Arish in northeastern Sinai Peninsula.
The officials say the incident took place in the el-Zohor district on Friday evening. They say the wounded — all from a single family — are in critical condition.
It wasn’t immediately clear who fired the mortar shell. The district of el-Zohor is home to a military camp and also has a presence of IS militants.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media.
The deaths came hours after Islamic militants attacked a checkpoint south of the town of Rafah, killing 23 soldiers and wounding 33 others. No group has claimed responsibility for that attack.
—Ashraf Sweilam in El-Arish, Egypt.
Egypt’s Interior Ministry says a police officer was gunned down in a drive-by shooting in Cairo as he was heading to prayers at a mosque near his home.
The ministry’s statement says assailants on a motorcycle drove by, opened fire and killed Capt. Ibrahim Azazi as he was leaving his house on Friday and heading to the mosque. It says security forces are searching for the assailants.
The attack came just hours after heavily armed Islamic militants carried a blitz attack at a checkpoint on the southern edge of the border town of Rafah in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing 23 troops and wounding 33.
No group has claimed responsibility for either of the attacks.
The Egyptian military has released a video showing fighter jets targeting militants shortly after a Sinai attack that killed 23 soldiers.
The Defense Ministry posted a video on its official website showing the aircraft taking off and striking vehicles and positions allegedly belonging to the Islamic militants who carried out the deadly attack earlier on Friday.
The ministry says the strikes took place near the border town of Rafah and killed 40 militants and wounded dozens. The ministry’s account could not be independently confirmed as that part of the Sinai Peninsula is off limits to the media.
It says the armed forces, backed by the Egyptian air force, foiled other attacks against checkpoints in the same town. It added that the armed forces are chasing militants who are hiding in mountainous areas.
The Islamic militant Hamas group, which rules the Gaza Strip, has denounced the attack earlier in the day in Egypt’s Sinai as a “terrorist” assault.
The condemnation came just hours after Islamic militants killed 23 Egyptian troops and wounded 33 at a checkpoint near Egypt’s border with Gaza on Friday.
Hamas’ spokesman Fawzi Barhoum says the group considers the attack in Sinai “a criminal, a terrorist, and a coward attack that doesn’t target Egypt only, but the security and stability of the entire Arab nation.”
Hamas has been trying to improve ties with neighboring Egypt and is currently creating a buffer zone on its side of the Gaza-Egypt border to curb militant crossings.
Egypt has accused Hamas of fomenting unrest in the region and aiding the insurgency in the northern Sinai Peninsula, especially in the aftermath of the 2013 ouster of Islamic President Mohammed Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood organization. The Brotherhood is considered the mother group of Hamas.
Egypt and Israel have imposed a blockade on Gaza since Hamas seized power there in 2007.
Egyptian security officials have raised the toll from a blitz attack by Islamic militants in Sinai to 23 soldiers killed and 33 wounded, making it one of the deadliest attacks in the volatile peninsula this year.
Officials say that the militants unleashed a suicide car bomb and heavy gunfire on an Egyptian military checkpoint in northeastern Sinai Peninsula on Friday morning.
The officials initially put the death toll at 10. They later told The Associated Press that more bodies were retrieved from the rubble of a demolished building at the site.
The attack took place in the village of el-Barth just south of the town of Rafah. The officials say five officers are among those killed, including a high-ranking special forces officer, Col. Ahmed el-Mansi.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to speak to the media.
__Ashraf Sweilam in El-Arish, Egypt.
Egyptian officials say at least 10 security troops have been killed when a car bomb struck a military checkpoint followed by heavy gunfire in northeastern Sinai Peninsula.
The officials say that the Friday attack started when a suicide car bomber rammed his vehicle into the checkpoint in southern Rafah village of el-Barth, followed by heavy shooting by dozens of masked militants on foot. The dead included a high ranking special forces officer and at least 20 others were wounded in the attack.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak to the media. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
Egypt has in recent years been battling a stepped-up insurgency in northern Sinai, mainly by militants from an Islamic State group affiliate.