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» 08/06/2012
Sinai, armed Egyptian group kills 16 police
The attack occurred last night near the Rafah crossing. The commandos stormed the checkpoint with armored vehicles, anti-tank rockets and grenades. There are still no claims of responsibility. This morning the Israeli army found the bodies of five assailants. The Egyptian president declares a state of emergency.

Cairo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - At least 16 Egyptian policemen were killed in an attack launched last night by a group of armed men - perhaps Palestinian Islamists - against a checkpoint in Rafah on the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip in North Sinai. This morning, IDF soldiers have recovered the bodies of five people belonging to the command. Rafah is the pass that connects the Palestinian population locked up in Gaza and under the rule of Hamas, to neighboring Egypt.

After a meeting with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, declared a state of emergency and promised that "the Egyptian army will take over control of Sinai". Morsi has called the attack "a cowardly act" and asked the security forces to defend the country's sovereignty and to protect Sinai from all armed groups. Currently, the Rafah crossing has been closed indefinitely.

The attack occurred at around 21.00 last night, while the Egyptian soldiers were preparing for iftar, the meal that marks the breaking of the fast of Ramadan. Two armed groups with their faces covered and in Bedouin clothes raided the checkpoint on board two armored jeeps, firing heavy machine guns, grenades and antitank rockets. One of the vehicles blew up against the barriers of the crossing, the other was destroyed by Israeli forces in the area.

To date no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but an official of the Egyptian army says the group belongs to the Islamist fringe active in the Sinai, responsible for several attacks against pipelines, Egyptian and Israeli security forces. A few hours before the assault, Israeli forces killed two armed terrorists, who were on board a motorcycle headed towards a roadblock.

About 1,000 soldiers belonging to the border police are stationed in the Sinai, with the task of guarding the strip of coast and the roads leading to the main city of northern Sinai, El Arish and Rafah. They do not belong to the elite units and are not trained to deal with any large-scale terrorist attacks, on the increase since the fall of Hosni Mubarak.


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See also
08/08/2012 EGYPT - ISRAEL
Egyptian air strike on Sinai. At least 20 dead
Palestinians continue flooding into Egypt
by Joshua Lapide
Egypt blocks Palestinian ‘exodus’ in Rafah
The Gaza border is under control, while Egypt is pushing Hamas and Abbas to dialogue
Fallout from Palestinian crisis to be discussed at four-party summit next Monday

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