EL-ARISH, Egypt (AP) — Insurgents ambushed an Egyptian army convoy in northern Sinai early Tuesday killing a soldier and a civilian, the local government and the military said, the latest in a rising wave of attacks in the volatile peninsula.
Military spokesman Col. Ahmed Mohammed Ali said the attackers targeted two buses transporting soldiers, detonating three explosive devices and spraying the vehicles with gunfire as they drove down a main road linking the border town of Rafah with el-Arish, the capital of northern Sinai.
In a statement published on his official Facebook page, Ali said forces securing the buses returned fire, forcing the attackers to flee. He added that one soldier and a civilian driver died in the attack and five soldiers were wounded. The wounded soldiers, some described as being in critical condition, were taken to the military hospital in el-Arish.
A statement soon after the attack from the northern Sinai security department gave different details of the ambush. It said attackers fired three rocket-propelled grenades at an armored military vehicle and a troop carrier, and that seven soldiers were wounded. The military's reports of incidents involving its forces are generally considered more definitive.
Violence in Sinai has increased since the military toppled President Mohammed Morsi on July 3 following demonstrations by millions calling for him to leave office. Several al-Qaida-inspired militant groups have stepped up attacks on security and military targets in the peninsula. The Egyptian military has responded with intensified operations to eliminate the militants and their sanctuaries in the lawless desert area.
Meanwhile, Egypt's prosecutor general ordered the detention of four policemen on the basis of accusations related to the August deaths of more than 30 detainees held in a prison truck, a security official said. The police were accused of committing manslaughter by firing tear gas into the trucks.
The incident happened after police cracked down on pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo, killing hundreds. The prisoners were mostly supporters of the ousted president. Many policemen have been referred to trial over allegations of killing protesters and other abuses since the 2011 overthrow of authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak, but convictions remain rare.
The official spoke anonymously as he was not authorized to talk to media.