54 Egyptian Police Killed in Ambush 10/21 11:19
CAIRO (AP) -- At least 54 policemen, including 20 officers and 34
conscripts, were killed when a raid on a militant hideout southwest of Cairo
escalated into an all-out firefight, authorities said Saturday, in one of the
single deadliest attacks by militants against Egyptian security forces in
The officials said the exchange of fire began late Friday in the al-Wahat
al-Bahriya area in Giza province, about 135 kilometers (84 miles) southwest of
The firefight began when security forces acting on intelligence moved
against a militants' hideout in the area. Backed by armored personnel carriers
and led by senior counterterrorism officers, the police contingent drew fire
and rocket-propelled grenades, according to the officials.
The officials said what happened next is not clear, but indications suggest
that the force ran out of ammunition and that the militants captured several
policemen and later killed them. One officer managed to escape in his armored
vehicle, they added.
The officials said the police force appeared to have fallen into a carefully
planned ambush set up by the militants. The death toll could increase, they
added, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to
Those killed included two police brigadier-generals, a colonel and 10
Egypt's Interior Ministry, which is in charge of police, announced a much
lower death toll, saying in a statement read over state television that 16 were
killed in the shootout. It added that 15 militants were killed or injured.
The last time Egypt's security forces suffered such a heavy loss of life was
in July 2015 when militants from the extremist Islamic State group carried out
a series of coordinated attacks, including suicide bombings, against army and
police positions in the Sinai peninsula, killing at least 50. However, the army
said only 17 soldiers and over 100 militants were killed.
An official statement issued Saturday said Friday's incident would be
investigated, suggesting that the heavy death toll may have been partially
caused by incompetence, intelligence failures or lack of coordination. The
officials said prosecutors will look into whether the police's counterterrorism
agents failed to inform the military of the operation or include them.
Two audio recordings purportedly by policemen who took part in the operation
circulated online late Friday. One policeman, apparently using a two-way radio,
was heard in the nearly two-minute recording pleading for help from a
"We are the only ones injured, sir," the policeman said. "We were 10 but
three were killed. After their injury, they bled to death, sir."
"They took all the weapons and ammunition," he added, "We are now at the
foot of a mountain."
The second recording was purportedly by a policeman warning others. "I can't
identify any direction. Only planes can see us. Take care every one," he was
heard saying, adding that militants were pursuing them.
The authenticity of the recordings could not be immediately verified.
The heavy loss of life will likely lead to the restructuring and
streamlining of the country's counterterrorism effort, the officials said, with
better coordination between the police, military and security agencies high on
the list of objectives.
It's also likely to be cited by government critics as a vindication of their
long-held argument that suppressing freedoms, jailing opponents and cracking
down on civil society does not, as the pro-government media insists, help in
the war against terror.
No militant group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which
bore all the hallmarks of the Islamic State group. A local affiliate of the
extremist group is spearheading an insurgency whose epicenter is in the Sinai
Peninsula, which borders Israel and the Gaza Strip.
The United States condemned the attack in a statement issued by State
Department, offering "profound condolences to the families of the deceased and
the government and people of Egypt... at this difficult time."
The incident comes a few days after militants staged a brazen daylight
attack in the heart of el-Arish, the largest city in the Sinai Peninsula,
attacking a church and a nearby bank and reportedly making away with some $1
million. Seven were killed in the Monday attack.
Attacks by militants have significantly increased since the 2013 ouster by
the military of an Islamist president, who was freely elected but whose
one-year rule proved divisive. Attacks have also spread outside Sinai and into
the country's mainland and areas close to the porous Libyan border to the west.
The country has been under a state of emergency since April, following a
spate of suicide bombings targeting minority Christians that have killed more
than a 100 since December. The attacks were claimed by IS.
Egypt blamed the attacks on the Christians on militant cells trained and
armed in neighboring Libya, where mostly Islamist militias, including extremist
groups like IS, control territory or maintain a foothold in the vast, oil-rich
nation. In response, Egypt has stepped up security along its desert border with
Libya, where it supports an eastern-based army general fighting militant groups.
In July 2014, gunmen armed with rocket-propelled grenades attacked a border
guard post in Egypt's western desert in a brazen assault that killed 21 troops
deployed close to the Libyan border.
Associated Press writer Thomas Strong in Washington D.C. contributed to this