Gunmen shot dead eight plainclothed Egyptian policemen in the Helwan district south of Cairo, the interior ministry said Sunday, in an attack claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group.
The policemen were travelling in a minivan when the assailants in a pickup truck blocked their path and sprayed the vehicle with automatic rifle fire, the ministry said.
The IS group’s Egyptian branch claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement, saying that "a squad of the soldiers of the caliphate" opened fire on the van in Helwan, killing the policemen and then making off with their weapons.
It said the attack was retaliation for "the pure women imprisoned" in Egyptian jails.
The interior ministry said the dead included a lieutenant and seven lower ranking policemen who were patrolling the area just south of the capital when they were ambushed late at night.
The Egyptian branch of the IS group, which controls parts of Iraq and Syria, has spearheaded an insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula that has killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen.
But attacks of this magnitude in or near Cairo are rare, and police have had more success in quelling them in the capital than in the sparsely populated Sinai.
Nevertheless, militants had struck before in Helwan, killing a policeman standing guard outside a museum in June 2015.
Jihadists have also claimed several attacks in Cairo itself as they attempt to make inroads into the capital, including an attempted assassination of the interior minister in late 2013 and the bombing of the Italian consulate in July 2015.
More recently militants have conducted hit-and-run attacks on policemen in Cairo and small-scale bombings.
They often claim their attacks are in retaliation for a bloody police crackdown on Islamist supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, which has killed hundreds of protesters and imprisoned thousands.
They have also targeted foreigners.
In October, the IS group claimed responsibility for bombing a Russian airliner carrying holidaymakers from a south Sinai resort, killing all 224 people on board.
The group said it smuggled explosives concealed in a soda can on to the plane in airport at Sharm El-Sheikh, a popular Red Sea resort in south Sinai.
That attack prompted Russia to suspend all flights to Egypt, and has lost the country hundreds of millions of dollars in tourism revenues.
The bombing came two months after they abducted a Croatian oil worker near Cairo and beheaded him.
Police later tracked down the top IS group operative in Cairo, who was linked to the Croat's murder, and killed him in a shoot out.
But efforts to quell the insurgency in Sinai have floundered despite a massive army campaign.
In March, IS group gunmen killed 15 policemen in an attack on a checkpoint near the El-Arish, the provincial capital of North Sinai.
Since pledging allegiance to the IS group, which controls parts of Syria and Iraq, in November 2014, the Sinai branch's attacks have grown more sophisticated.
The military says it has killed more than 1,000 militants, occasionally publishing pictures of their bodies.
The claims are difficult to verify, with reporters having little access to the north of the peninsula.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2016-05-08