July 25, 2015 / 10:44 PM / 2 years ago

Egypt extends state of emergency in North Sinai by three months

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt said on Saturday it had extended by three months a state of emergency imposed on parts of Northern Sinai in October after Islamist militants stepped up attacks in the peninsula bordering Israel, Gaza and the Suez Canal.

Insurgents have killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen in Sinai since mid-2013, lashing out after then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi following mass protests against his rule.

Sisi went on to be elected president last year and says militancy poses an existential threat to Egypt, the most populous Arab country.

The decision, announced by Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab in a written decree on Saturday, will be implemented in Rafah, al-Arish, Sheikh Zuweid and surrounding areas starting on Sunday. It also extends a night-time curfew in place in the same areas.

The measure was first introduced after 33 security personnel were killed in an attack in late October at a checkpoint in northern Sinai. It was extended three months in January and again in April.

The attack was claimed by Sinai Province, an affiliate of Islamic State, which earlier changed its name from Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis. The group, which aims to topple the government in Cairo, has mainly focused on targets in Sinai.

The group last week claimed responsibility for a bombing that killed four soldiers near the border town of Rafah and rocket attack on an Egyptian naval vessel near the coast of Israel and Gaza, less than a week after claiming a bombing in Cairo that heavily damaged the Italian consulate.

Sinai Province earlier this month assaulted several military checkpoints in North Sinai, in what was the fiercest fighting in the region in years.

Reporting by Ehab Farouk and Ali Abdelaty; Writing by Ahmed Aboulenein

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