Five Egyptian policeman and soldiers were killed Thursday in separate attacks after Islamic militants set up road blocks and gunned them down in northern Sinai, an area of Egypt that's becoming increasingly violent, the Associated Press reported. Sinai is the same area where 31 soldiers were killed last month, leading the Egyptian military to declare a state of emergency in the peninsula.
In the first attack, three off-duty soldiers were targeted in a surprise attack as they were shot in their taxi near the town of Sheikh Zuweid, sources told Reuters. The policemen were killed in a second attack in Rafah, next to the Gaza Strip, after gunmen stopped their car and shot them.
Attacks in Sinai have become more frequent since former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who was aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood Islamist organization, was removed from office in a military coup last year. Islamic militants have targeted the Egyptian army in the attacks, according to the AP. Hundreds of soldiers and police have been killed since Morsi’s 2013 ouster, and the three-month state of emergency was ordered in October after 33 Egyptian authorities were killed, Reuters reported.
Egypt’s military is also cracking down on the transfer of weapons and fighters between Sinai and Gaza. Residents on the Egyptian side of the border are being ordered to move out, and the Egyptian military wants to destroy 800 houses to form a buffer between Egypt and the Palestinian territory.
Thursday’s attacks came the same week that Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, an Islamic militant group, swore allegiance to the Islamic State group, the organization formerly known as ISIS. They also erupted after eight naval soldiers disappeared during an attack on their ship by Islamic militants near Damietta, a Mediterranean port city, the AP reported.