CAIRO -- At least 24 police officers were killed Monday when militants ambushed two mini-buses in the latest bloodshed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, where security forces have been battling emboldened Islamist extremists for months.
Egyptian state TV reported that militants forced the off-duty police officers from the buses and shot them execution-style outside the town of Rafah, which borders Israel and the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip. Other reports suggested that the officers were killed when the vehicles were struck by rocket-propelled grenades.
Militant attacks on the army and security forces have intensified in the Sinai since the coup last month that toppled Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. Scores of soldiers and police officers have been killed as militants have ambushed government buildings, police stations and checkpoints.
Israel is increasingly worried about the escalation of militant activity. An extremist group claimed that an Israeli drone strike killed four of its fighters as they were attempting to fire rockets into Israel this month. Egyptian authorities denied the claim, saying there was no Israeli involvement.
Egypt’s interim government fears a wave of terror attacks similar to those that shook the Sinai in the 1990s and 2000s, when hundreds of Egyptians and foreign tourists were killed. Police are also concerned that militants, angry at an army crackdown that has killed more than 800 supporters of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood since Wednesday, may begin targeting Cairo and other cities.