EL-ARISH, Egypt – A senior Egyptian police officer was shot and wounded Tuesday in the second recent attack of its kind on security forces in the country's turbulent northern Sinai region.
Security officials said Inspector General Selim Said el-Gamal was riding in a police car with other officers in the provincial capital of el-Arish when attackers in an unmarked white truck opened fire at their vehicle.
Officials said el-Gamal stumbled out of the car after he was shot and that the driver and other officers ran for cover by fleeing the vehicle. Some of the assailants — who had fired from the bed of their truck — took off with the police vehicle.
Later the same day, officials said gunmen ambushed an army truck in the town of Sheikh Zuweyid just outside el-Arish, stealing the vehicle that had been transporting fuel to nearby bases and checkpoints.
The security officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media.
Dr. Tareq Khater, a medical official in northern Sinai, said el-Gamal was shot in the neck and is in critical condition. He was airlifted from el-Arish to Cairo for treatment.
Tuesday's attack comes just three days after gunmen killed three policemen in the same area. Officials said the militants raised the black flag associated with Islamic militants before speeding off.
The militants have challenged the state's authority in the northern parts of the peninsula, launching almost daily attacks on security forces and enjoying near complete control over towns like Sheikh Zuweyid.
The violence in Sinai harks back to the low-intensity insurgency waged by militants against former President Hosni Mubarak's regime in the 1980s and 1990s that targeted security forces and foreign tourists, leaving well over 1,000 people killed and prompting authorities to conduct mass sweeps, detaining thousands of local Bedouin and torturing many.
Since Mubarak's ouster, militants have said they aim to create an Islamic emirate in Sinai.
A group known as al-Salafiya al-Jihadiya said late Monday that Islamic militants were not behind last weekend's attack, although it does not represent all the disparate militant groups in Sinai.
In an online statement, it said the attack was revenge by locals for an alleged police shooting that left several innocent victims dead. It said police had shot the people in their vehicles as part of a plot by officials to stir public anger and justify repressive practices once rampant under the former regime.
The attacks are the latest in a string of assaults on Egyptian military and police in northern Sinai, where militants have grown emboldened since last year's uprising that left a security void in the Sinai Peninsula. The area borders the Palestinian Gaza Strip and Israel.