Several Egyptian state security officers, including the head of the state security sector in Egypt’s El-Arish, have reportedly been taken hostage by undefined militants following clashes that broke out over the weekend inside the security zone in the restive city as authorities maintain a media blackout, a security source told The New Arab.
Unconfirmed reports revealed that the militants reportedly confiscated laptop devices and classified files from the building before fleeing the scene.
An investigation has been opened into the incident as security forces are hunting down the perpetrators in and around the northeastern North Sinai province, local security sources told TNA on condition of anonymity. The high-profile source said on condition of anonymity for not being authorised to brief the media.
On Sunday morning, 30 July, at least four cops, including a colonel, two constables and a low-ranking policeman, were killed, and 22 others were injured, many seriously, when several detainees, including a militant reportedly belonging to the Palestinian Hamas faction, seised weapons inside the state security building and exchanged fire with the security forces.
All local communication services were cut throughout the deadly clashes that erupted at about 7 am and lasted till almost 3 pm.
The heavily fortified security zone turned into a war scene when other insurgents joined the detainees a few hours later, eventually assuming control of the whole area, according to the security source.
The heavily fortified security zone in Arish hosts the buildings of the court, the military intelligence, the state security, the police directorate and the local army forces. Only authorised personnel are allowed to enter the area or local citizens after verifying their identity.
Local news outlets mostly ignored the escalating incident in Arish as no official comment has been released on the incident yet.
An IS-linked insurgency has raged for years in the Sinai Peninsula’s north. It intensified after a 2013 military coup led by current president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi when he served as the defence minister.
While there is no official death toll, it is believed that hundreds of Egyptian security forces, civilians and militants have died in the ongoing violence.
The recent attack on the state security building in Arish took place two days after the chief of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), General Michael Kurilla, had visited North Sinai last Friday, 28 July.
Kurilla toured the border between the besieged Gaza Strip and Egypt, marking the “first-ever visit by a US military official to northern Sinai, particularly in the border area with Gaza and the Rafah crossing.”