Islamic State-affiliated militant group Province of Sinai claimed responsibility for an attack on Arish International Airport in North Sinai that took place on Tuesday during an unannounced visit to the city by Egypt’s top security officials Defense Minister Sedky Sobhy and Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar.
In a statement published Wednesday by the Amaq News Agency, the militant group’s media arm, the group said it damaged a helicopter accompanying the security delegation to Arish using a guided Kornet missile, killing and injuring officers on board, and claimed knowledge of the visit by the two ministers.
Egypt’s Armed Forces issued a statement on Tuesday saying a mortar attack on Arish airport killed an officer and injured two others, while causing damage to a helicopter. Sinai News, however, reported that two military personnel, Lieutenant Colonel Ismail al-Shehaby and pilot Colonel Refaat Mondowa, were killed in the attack on the airport.
استشهاد المقدم / اسماعيل الشهابي ،والعقيد طيار حربي مقاتل / رفعت مندوه اثر استهداف مطار العريش اليوم بقذائف خلال زيارة وزيرا الدفاع والداخلية لمدينة العريش . #سيناءنيوز #سيناء pic.twitter.com/Wmi0vwXY0B
— Sinai News – سيناء نيوز (@sinai_news_1) December 19, 2017
Meanwhile, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met with the two ministers, according to the presidential spokesperson, in addition to Armed Forces Chief-of-Staff Mohamed Farid Hegazy, director of General Intelligence Khaled Fawzy and director of Military Intelligence Mohamed Farag al-Shahat.
A security official, who spoke to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity, said that clashes are still ongoing following the airport attack, reporting that one military officer was killed in the vicinity of the airport on Wednesday. Privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper reported that five militants were also killed in security operations near the airport, citing security officials.
A resident of the Salam neighborhood in east Arish told Mada Masr that sounds of explosions could be heard from the south of the city, where the airport is located, after military vehicles were seen leaving the main military base and heading toward the area.
Arish International Airport is located in a heavily secured area near to the city’s main military base and the North Sinai Central Security Forces camp. Increased security measures have recently been implemented around the airport, including clearing vegetation in the area, erecting a protective wall around the airport and increasing the height of watchtowers.
Arish airport was the target of two missile attacks in 2015 and 2016, both of which were claimed by the Islamic State’s Egypt affiliate, Province of Sinai. The militant group also claimed an earlier attack on the airport in October of this year.