At least 20 military personnel were killed in a militant attack on an Armed Forces encampment in Qusayima in central Sinai on Saturday, a security source told Mada Masr, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Egypt’s Armed Forces spokesperson issued a statement on Saturday morning saying that eight Armed Forces personnel were killed and 15 were injured in the process of “thwarting a major terrorist operation” on a military camp in an unspecified location in central Sinai.
Province of Sinai, the Islamic State-affiliated militant group operating in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, claimed responsibility for the attack in Qusayima, an area located in the Hasna region of central Sinai, in a statement released on Sunday. The Amaq News Agency, the Islamic State’s media arm, also stated that seven officers and 15 soldiers were killed in the attack, a total of 22 military personnel.
At least 18 funerals for military personnel killed in the attack were reported by various media outlets on Saturday and Sunday.
Local media outlets reported funerals for officers Ahmed al-Khouly from Qalyubiya, Khaled Soliman from Sharqiya, Mohamed Adel from Qalyubiya, Ashraf Gad from Daqahlia, Walid Atef from Gharbiya, Mahmoud Daghsh from Qalyubiya, Mahmoud Kamal Eddin from Giza, Abdel Hamid Mahmoud from Monufiya, as well as military conscripts Ahmed Ibrahim from Minya, Mohamed Taha from Minya, Samir Ahmed from Suez, Abdel Rahman Hassan from Daqahlia, Abdel Latif Wahid from Daqahlia, Adham Salah from Sharqiya, Mahmoud Bahgat from Beheira, Mahmoud Abdel Wahab from Sohag, Abdel Rahman Mohamed from Sohag, and Mohamed Turky from Assiut, all of whom were reported as having been killed in Saturday’s attack.
According to the Armed Forces’ statement, 14 militants armed with automatic weapons, medium-caliber rifles and RPGs, four of whom were wearing explosive vests, “attempted to storm one of the Armed Forces encampments in central Sinai, taking advantage of the period of darkness that accompanies dawn.”
The attackers were intercepted by military personnel, the statement continued, which resulted in the death of all of the militants involved. “The terrorists wearing suicide belts quickly detonated themselves in the vicinity of the encampment, leading to the death of 8 members of the Armed Forces and the injury of 15 others by shrapnel,” it stated.
Later on Saturday, the Armed Forces spokesperson released images of the armed militants who were killed in the attack.
According to the security source who spoke to Mada Masr, some of the militants — who were wearing camouflage resembling Armed Forces uniforms — managed to scale the wall surrounding the military camp in Qusayima. The militants were able to disperse across the facility, the source added, and engage directly with the military forces stationed inside, opening fire on the camp.
Militants wearing explosive vests detonated themselves while others stormed the camp, the source continued, saying that 20 military personnel were killed in the attack, including seven officers whose bodies were transferred to the Salam Military Hospital in the neighboring governorate of Suez. The source also expects the death toll to rise, as a number of body parts from the attack remain unidentified.
The source added that two other attacks were carried out concurrently, one near Maliz, an area also located in the Hasna region, and another on a checkpoint in the city of Hasna. No one was killed or injured in either attack.
Province of Sinai claimed in its statement that the attack was executed by two of its armed militants, identifying them as Abu Hamza al-Mohager and Abu Bakr al-Mohager. “Al-Mohager,” Arabic for “the immigrant,” is the surname given by the Islamic State to militants who join their ranks from other countries.
Militants have previously carried out attacks disguised in military-style uniforms. In February, several days after the launch of Operation Sinai 2018, four Province of Sinai militants wearing camouflage and explosive vests infiltrated the headquarters of an Armed Forces battalion in the North Sinai capital of Arish and detonated explosive vests.
Several hours before publishing the news of the Qusayima attack, the Armed Forces spokesperson issued the 19th communiqué on Operation Sinai 2018. He announced that since its launch on February 9, 27 militants had been killed in airstrikes and exchanges of fire with security forces, 114 suspects had been arrested, two militant training camps discovered and 30 explosive devices located and dismantled. The communiqué did not include a death toll or injury count for military or police personnel.
In the most recent issue of its weekly Al-Naba newsletter, which was released on Friday, the Islamic State published an infographic on operations carried out by Province of Sinai between February 9 and April 10. It claimed that the group had carried out 134 attacks on police and military targets, killing 164 and destroying 70 vehicles.
According to the infographic, the group carried out 35 sniping attacks, three inghimasi attacks, which involve special forces-style suicide fighters who carry small arms and explosives, as well as the setting up of three checkpoints.
Province of Sinai released a video at the end of March titled The Failed Confrontation, which claimed that Operation Sinai 2018 was a failure. However, the use of old footage, some of it from militant operations from over one year ago, belied claims that the group has been unaffected by the counterterrorism campaign.