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At least 18 Egyptian policemen were killed in an Islamic State attack on September 11. The attack occurred in the Sinai peninsula near the town of El-Arish and was officially claimed by the Islamic State. The attack consisted of a roadside bomb that destroyed three armoured vehicles. The police vehicles were travelling between El-Arish and Qantara when a rogue vehicle attempted to break through the convoy. When police stopped to secure the vehicle, a bomb inside exploded, destroying the surrounding police vehicles. Islamic State militants then shot at the survivors of the bombing with machine guns. Official casualty figures have not yet been provided.
Sinai is one of the most dangerous locations in Egypt. According to the BBC, Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, a jihadist Islamist group, has been active in the region since 2011. The group allied with the Islamic State in 2014. It is speculated that the Islamic State is attempting to gain control over the entire Sinai peninsula to create a stronghold in Egypt. Sinai has been in a state of emergency since October 2014, when 33 security personnel were killed by militants. Egypt has made attempts to broaden a buffer zone at the border with Gaza, where it believes militants are smuggling weapons.
According to the BBC, the interior ministry confirmed the attack and that a number of policemen had been injured and killed. These men join the hundreds of others that have been killed by Islamic State militants in Egypt since 2013 when Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammad Morsi was overthrown. Besides targeting Egyptian police and soldiers, the Islamic State has also targeted Coptic churches in Egypt and killed many of the Christian minority.
This attack is cited as the deadliest attack since July when 23 soldiers were killed in the Sinai region in a car bombing near the Gaza border checkpoint. That attack was also claimed by the Islamic State.
This attack also occurs within ten days of a reported shoot-out between Egyptian security forces and Islamic State militants in Cairo, which reportedly killed ten Islamic State militants. Militants have been sighted travelling from the northern Sinai region toward the capital, preparing attacks on neighbouring provinces.
As a region in an extended state of emergency, Sinai would likely benefit from the presence of United Nations peacekeepers. However, the United States has been cutting back on the amount of spending it gives to the United Nations to fund peacekeeping missions, which drastically affects the ability of the United Nations to set up in areas of conflict. However, the benefit to be had from an established, counter-terrorist presence in this region justifies the potential expenditure. Hopefully, the United Nations will consider this region as one in need of additional support.