Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Four killed in North Sinai isis militant attacks on hotel hosting judges

Judge, prosecutor, and two security personnel die in attacks launched in North Sinai by ISIS-affiliated militant group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis


Damage in an Al-Arish hotel after a car bomb killed four people

Four people -- a judge, a prosecutor, and two security personnel -- were killed on Tuesday and 14 were injured in North Sinai's restive city of Al-Arish during attacks on a hotel where judges supervising the ongoing parliamentary polls were residing.

The ISIS-affiliated militant group in North Sinai, Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, claimed responsibility for the attacks. The same group said earlier it had brought down the Russian airliner that killed all 224 on board over Sinai last month.

A suicide bomber was driving a car bomb into the hotel when security forces opened fire on him, causing the car to explode away from the Swiss Inn Hotel and the bomber to die, the military said in a statement.

Another attacker wearing an explosive belt later snuck into the hotel's kitchen and blew himself up, while a gunman went up to one of the hotel rooms and opened fire, killing a judge.

"One judge, Amr Hammad was among those killed and two civilians are among the injured. They were treated in Al-Arish public hospital, while 12 were transferred to a nearby military hospital," said Khaled Megahed, the health ministry spokesperson.

The Egyptian justice ministry later announced that prosecutor Amr Mostafa is among those who were killed. The army statement confirmed the attacks killed at least two police conscripts and injured other security forces.

"This brutal incident is a failed, desperate attempt to hinder the state," said army spokesman Mohamed Samir in the statement. "We emphasise that [this incident] will strengthen the persistence and determination of police and the armed forces to root out terrorism in North Sinai."

Ambulances rushed to the scene and gunshots could be heard following the explosion. A main coastal highway in the city has been shut down following the attack.

In a statement circulated by its supporters on Twitter, Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis said the attack was to avenge the imprisonment of female Muslims by the "apostate" Egyptian army.

"A brother... hit with his car bomb a security force guarding the Swiss [Inn] Hotel where 50 judges were staying only to be followed by a lion who broke into the judges' headquarters with his automatic weapon ... then blew up his explosive belt among them," read the statement.

For years, Egypt has been fighting in North Sinai an Islamist militant insurgency, which spiked in 2013 following Islamist president Mohamed Morsi's ouster.

Over the past two years, Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for a number of attacks, some of which targeted judges in Al-Arish.

Islamist militants, who have primarily targeted security forces since the removal of Morsi, have in recent months targeted several judges amid the conviction of many Morsi supporters in terror-related cases.

Last June, Egypt's top prosecutor Hisham Barakat died from injuries sustained in a Cairo bomb attack.

In March, a small bomb was left in front of the house of judge Fathi Bayoumi, who investigated the corruption charges against Mubarak-era interior minister Habib El-Adly. The words "a gift for El-Adly's acquittal" were scribbled on a wall near the attack.

Two months earlier, a bomb attack targeting judge Khaled Mahgoub, who is representing the general prosecution in Morsi's jailbreak trial, caused damage to the windows and walls of his house.

The parliamentary elections, the second stage of which took place Sunday and Monday, were not marred by violence. Judges are currently supervising the counting of the votes.

Run-offs are due on December 1 and 2.