Egypt police: Militant involved in monastery attack killed

REUTERS  Asmaa Waguih

REUTERS Asmaa Waguih

An Egyptian policeman was killed and four others injured after Islamic State (IS) militants attacked a checkpoint leading to the internationally famous Mount Saint Catherine monastery in the restive Sinai Peninsula.

After an exchange of gunfire, the terrorists fled the scene, and some of them were wounded in the shootout.

The monastery attack comes shortly before a planned visit by Pope Francis, where he will speak at the International Peace Conference in Cairo on April 28-29. One Egyptian police officer was killed and four others were injured.

It was not immediately clear whether the attack on St. Catherine's was part of the Islamic State's broader campaign of sectarian bloodshed, or of the more localized guerrilla warfare led by the Islamic State's affiliate in North Sinai. It was built in the 6 century and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.

Authorities had already declared a three-month state of emergency and vowed stronger anti-terrorism measures after twin church bombings on Palm Sunday left at least 45 dead and dozens wounded.

The northern Sinai region is under a state of emergency, with near-daily Islamic State militant attacks on police and security forces.


Police forces were immediately sent to the location of the attack; a large-scale security sweep is ongoing to arrest the perpetrators, the statement added.

Last week, Israel closed the crossing following a warning from its anti-terrorism office of an "imminent" militant attack in Egypt.

The insurgent group has been active in Egypt's Sinai Province since 2011 but pledged affiliation to ISIS in 2014.

The drop reflects the scare after a Russian plane crashed in the Sinai in October 2015 killing all 224 passengers and crew - an attack also claimed by IS.

Saint Catherine monastery is one of the oldest Christian monasteries in Egypt and a major tourist attraction.

IS has threatened to carry out more attacks on Copts, which makes up about 10 percent of Egypt's population of more than 90 million people.

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