Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—At least 50 people were killed and 55 wounded on Wednesday after militants targeted army checkpoints in Egypt’s restive North Sinai region, security and health officials said.
The attacks, which were coordinated to hit several checkpoints across the region simultaneously on Wednesday morning, were claimed on Twitter by Sinai Province, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) branch in Egypt.
The military said 70 militants attacked five checkpoints in the area. Clashes between the army and the militants remain ongoing.
Army spokesman Brig. Gen. Mohammed Samir said 22 of the militants have so far been killed as the military pursues the attackers.
This comes just two days after Egypt’s top judicial official Hisham Barakat was killed by a bomb targeting his motorcade in central Cairo, the highest profile casualty of terrorist attacks which have hit the country during the last two years.
The attack on Barakat coincided with planned celebrations to mark the second anniversary of the June 30 protests against former president and senior Muslim Brotherhood figure Mohamed Mursi. Then-defense minister Abdel-Fattah El-Sisiand the army removed Mursi following the protests. Sisi was elected as president more than a year later.
Egypt has engaged in a crackdown on the Brotherhood since then, outlawing the group as a terrorist organization in late 2013 following a number of attacks targeting military and security personnel.
On Tuesday Egypt’s President Sisi attended a funeral procession for Barakat.
He hinted that some of the Brotherhood’s leaders currently incarcerated and awaiting death sentences were responsible for ordering the attack on the prosecutor-general’s life. They include Mursi and the organization’s leader Mohammed Badie.
Sisi said the orders to kill Barakat “came from inside the prison cells.”
Badie, Mursi, and the other senior members of the group have been convicted of charges relating to espionage and inciting violence against Egyptians.
Sisi vowed to intensify the crackdown on the group and amend Egypt’s laws to speed up legal procedures to prosecute, imprison, and execute those responsible for terrorist activities in the country.
“The hand of justice is chained by [current] laws. We will not wait. We will amend these laws,” Sisi said, adding that the “the death sentences and life sentences will be implemented via the law.”
Barakat was appointed as prosecutor-general only days after the toppling of Mursi and quickly became known among political and judicial circles as the “fiercest counter-terrorism warrior in Egypt.”
He was in charge of overseeing the prosecution of thousands of Islamists, including Mursi.
While a group calling itself the Popular Resistance in Giza claimed the attack on Barakat, security sources said it bore the fingerprints of Sinai Province and and the Al-Qaeda-linked Ajnad Misr (Soldiers of Egypt), both of whom have claimed responsibility for a host of attacks in Egypt since 2013.
A failed attempt on Barakat’s life took place in March when a bomb exploded outside his office in the High Court in central Cairo.
Mohamed Abdu Hassanein contributed additional reporting from Cairo.