Bombers kill election judges, police at North Sinai hotel

2015-11-24 19:00
An ambulance outside the Swiss Inn hotel in the Egyptian town of El-Arish, in the Sinai peninsula, following an attack on the hotel by two suicide bombers and a gunman. (STR, AFP)

An ambulance outside the Swiss Inn hotel in the Egyptian town of El-Arish, in the Sinai peninsula, following an attack on the hotel by two suicide bombers and a gunman. (STR, AFP)

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Arish - Two election judges and two police officers were killed Tuesday in a suicide attack at a North Sinai hotel where officials monitoring the second phase of Egypt's parliamentary polls were staying, the Egyptian army and Justice Ministry said.

One slain judge held the position of deputy head of the country's administrate system while the other was the deputy of the general prosecutor, according to the Justice Ministry.   

Two policemen were killed and at least 12 people injured in the attack, which targeted the Swiss Inn hotel in the North Sinai capital of Arish, according to a statement published by the Egyptian Armed Forces on the army spokesperson's official Facebook page. 

Police, army troops and civilians were among those injured, the statement read.

An individual driving a private car approached the Swiss Inn hotel at 07:00 (05:00 GMT) before security forces blocked the vehicle from coming closer to the hotel. The car then exploded and killed the suicide bomber, the armed forces' statement read.

Another suicide bomber managed to sneak into the hotel kitchen and detonate an explosive belt while the security forces were engaged with the car bomb driver, the statement added.

A third gunman slipped into a hotel room, shooting randomly and killing a judge, according to the army.

All militants died at the scene, according to the statement.

"Search operations are underway to hunt down the [perpetrators] involved in planning the incident," the statement said.     

Explosive belt

A security source previously told dpa that four gunmen exited a car near a security checkpoint outside the hotel, which is hosting about 50 election judges, and fought with police forces inside the hotel.

One of the attackers was wearing an explosive belt that went off inside the hotel, the source said on condition of anonymity.

Shortly afterwards, the bomb in the car carrying the militants went off, causing severe damage to the hotel, the source said.

The car bomb driver and the four gunmen were killed at the scene, the security source said.

Security forces cordoned off the area, setting up several checkpoints on roads leading to the hotel, while ambulances took the wounded to the nearby Arish Military Hospital and Arish Public Hospital.

The second and final round of Egypt's parliamentary elections were held on Sunday and Monday. The judges had remained in North Sinai to supervise vote counting.

The State of Sinai terrorist group, an Islamic State affiliate, has claimed responsibility for the attack.

According to a statement from the group circulating on Twitter, one of the bombers struck the security forces guarding the hotel, while another stormed the hotel with a machine gun before detonating an explosive belt.

"This operation was to retaliate against the apostate [Egyptian] army for arresting and insulting Muslim women at army checkpoints," the statement added.

dpa could not independently verify the statement, which contradicts earlier reports by mentioning only two attackers.  

In May, three Egyptian judges and their driver were killed when gunmen opened fire on their vehicle in Arish.

Extermination of judges

One month later, the State of Sinai published a video online about the attack. It was circulated on social media networks and tagged "extermination of judges."

Also on Tuesday, four police conscripts were killed north of Arish when an explosive device went off near the truck carrying them, a security source said.

The police truck was combing the area when the explosion occurred, the source added.

It was not immediately clear whether the truck attack was connected to the hotel bombing.

Security troops in the largely desert Sinai peninsula have come under repeated attacks from hardline jihadists since the 2011 uprising that toppled long-time dictator Hosny Mubarak.

The extremists stepped up their attacks after the military deposed Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in 2013, killing scores of security personnel.

The violence has mostly occurred in northern Sinai, prompting authorities to set up a kilometre-deep buffer zone there along the Gaza border.

Read more on:    isis  |  egypt  |  north africa

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