A local Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) affiliate has claimed responsibility for a gun and bomb attack Tuesday on a hotel in Egypt’s volatile Sinai Peninsula that reportedly left seven people dead, including two judges, and at least a dozen more wounded.
The assault came as the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi continues to battle a growing insurgency in the Sinai area.
SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors global jihadist activity, distributed a statement posted on social media by Sinai Province, ISIS’s Egyptian affiliate, saying two of its militants had targeted a hotel where judges were lodging.
“The hotel, the Swiss Inn Resort in El Arish, was housing judges who were monitoring Egypt’s parliamentary elections, an important political milestone for the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi,” reports the New York Times (NYT). “The militants were able to penetrate the hotel despite the heavy security measures in place across the country, sending a suicide attacker driving an explosive-packed car and a gunman who stormed into the hotel and shot the judge.”
In a statement, the Egyptian military said three terrorists attacked the hotel with explosives and gunfire early Tuesday, noting that a suicide bomber attempted to drive a vehicle into the Swiss Inn.
“He was killed when police shot at him, detonating the explosive-laden vehicle, the military’s statement said,” the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports. “Another assailant, wearing an explosive vest, tried to blow himself up inside the hotel’s kitchen, but was killed by security forces.”
“A third militant who gained access to the hotel’s rooms fired randomly at guests, killing one of the judges, the military said,” adds the report. “Four of the others killed were policemen, and one was a civilian, according to the state news agency, citing security sources.”
The assault reportedly left at least 12 people injured, including security forces, civilians, and army personnel, the Egyptian military revealed, adding that reinforcements were deployed to the scene.
Egyptian police and military installations are often targeted by ISIS’s Sinai Province wing, which is based in the restive Sinai area.
“Elections across the country are normally supervised by judges, and several have been deployed to North Sinai to monitor the balloting process,” notes the Journal.
In claiming responsibility for the recent attack, the ISIS affiliate said it was conducted in retaliation for Egypt’s imprisonment of women, something the group has said in past statements.
The group, one of the most active branches of ISIS, has been behind various attacks in northern Sinai.
Last month, it claimed responsibility for bringing down a Russian passenger plane, killing all 224 people on board.
The group also said it was responsible for a suicide bombing at a police club in El Arish earlier this month that killed four officers.
NYT notes, “The claim concerning the Russian jetliner reflected the Sinai Province’s shift in focus over the past two years, toward civilian targets and away from attacks mainly on the security services.”
The passenger plane, which was carrying tourists, was destroyed by a bomb, Russian officials have said. Russia has reportedly cut its air links with Egypt.
“Egyptian officials have so far refused to say that militants were responsible for the crash, while at the same time bolstering security measures at the country’s airports in an acknowledgment of safety gaps,” reports the Times.
“The Egyptian authorities have also repeatedly portrayed the Sinai militants as being on the retreat,” adds the report. “The attack on Tuesday occurred despite the deployment of thousands of police officers and soldiers to protect the parliamentary election.”