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Mar 10, 4:31 AM EST

Egypt says 2 security officers killed, 4 wounded in Sinai



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EL-ARISH, Egypt (AP) -- Islamic militants detonated a roadside bomb in Egypt's northern Sinai, killing two officers and wounding four in the latest attack in the restive peninsula, the Interior Ministry and security officials said Friday.

The explosion took place when a security patrol came upon a militant planting the device by a road in the town of el-Arish on Thursday evening. Security forces fired and killed the militant while his accomplices fled, setting off the device, according to the statement.

The two slain officers were a lieutenant-colonel and a captain, the officials said. A discarded explosives-laden suicide vest was found at the site of the blast, they added, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

The bombing came a day after suspected militants killed Col. Yasser Mohammed el-Hadidi, a senior officer in el-Arish, also using a remote-controlled device.

El-Hadidi's funeral was attended by Interior Minister Magdy Abdel-Ghaffar and other senior officials as authorities pledged persevere in their efforts "to eliminate terrorism and safeguard the country and the people. "The ministry ordered also sweeping security checks in el-Arish and increased the number of checkpoints in the city.

Egypt has for the past years been battling a stepped-up insurgency in northern Sinai, mainly by militants from an Islamic State affiliate. The group claimed responsibility for killing el-Hadidi. It has also been behind a string of deadly slayings of Egyptian Christians in northern Sinai, which began in December and which has prompted much of the region's Christian Coptic minority to start leaving the area.

The Egyptian government has claimed its operations south of el-Arish and the desert beyond have killed scores of Islamic militants but the extremists are still able to stage brazen, daytime attacks.

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has described the fighting in Sinai as a "harsh war" and has called on Egyptians to stand united in the battle.

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Associated Press Writer Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this report.

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