The Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack on a security checkpoint near St. Catherine Monastery in South Sinai that occurred late Tuesday night.
“Some of the assailants were injured, and one assailant was forced to abandon his automatic firearm, along with ammunition, after police returned fire,” the ministry statement asserted.
However, in comments to the privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper immediately after news of the attack broke, Ahmed Tayel, the security director for South Sinai, claimed that the gunfire came from one of the officers stationed at the security checkpoint who mistakenly fired his weapon.
In an official statement on Wednesday, the Interior Ministry announced the death of the alleged attacker. Security forces cooperated with Bedouins familiar with the mountains around the area to cordon off his hideout, the ministry reported, adding that there was an exchange of fire that led to his death.
Militant attacks are uncommon in South Sinai, unlike in North Sinai and in the center of the peninsula, where attacks have occurred with more regular frequency since the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
Coptic Christians have been the subject of targeted violence in Egypt in recent months, with attacks particularly localized in North Sinai, Tanta, Cairo and Alexandria. In February, with militia-affiliated websites issuing death threats to Copts in the North Sinai city of Arish and amid a rash of targeted killings, dozens of families fled the city for Ismailia.
Earlier this month, the Islamic State-affiliated militant group Province of Sinai claimed responsibility for two Palm Sunday church bombings. The attacks on St. Marks Coptic Orthodox Church in Alexandria and St. George Coptic Orthodox Church in Tanta left more than 43 dead and more than 70 injured.
St. Catherine Monastery was founded in the sixth century and is a UNESCO world heritage site, as it is the oldest Christian monastery being used in its initial capacity.
On Wednesday, an Israeli counterterrorism unit announced the continued closure of the Taba border to Israelis wishing to enter Egypt. The closure, which began last week on the eve of Passover after Egypt’s church bombings, was due to end Tuesday, Haaretz reported, but has been extended for an indefinite period of time.