CAIRO — Gunmen assaulted a police checkpoint in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt on Monday, killing at least nine people and wounding 12, an Egyptian police spokesman said, and Islamic State militants were suspected to be behind it.
The complex attack, which the police said involved rocket-propelled grenades and rifle fire as well as a failed attempt to ram the checkpoint with a truck bomb, was one of the largest in Sinai in recent months.
The attack came a month after the bombing of a Cairo church that killed at least 28 worshipers. Islamist militants, most affiliated with the Islamic State, have been pressing a twin-pronged war in Egypt, attacking the security forces in remote Sinai while striking civilian and police targets in major cities.
About 20 masked militants, some wearing military fatigues, were involved in Monday’s assault in El Arish, the main town in northern Sinai, said Tarek Attiya, a police spokesman. Initially, some used rocket-propelled grenades, the police said.
At least one attacker tried to ram the checkpoint with a vehicle loaded with explosives. In a statement, the police said they had blown up the truck before it reached the checkpoint. And, in security camera footage released by the police, an attacker can be seen running away from a truck, carrying a suicide belt and being shot and falling to the ground.
The police account of the assault could not be independently verified, as the Egyptian authorities have blocked access to Sinai for most news media outlets.
State news media reported that the attack damaged cars and houses in the area.
Although there was no immediate claim of responsibility for Monday’s attack, most violence against the security forces in Sinai in recent months has been carried out by the local affiliate of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
The Islamic State also claimed responsibility for a bombing last month on the grounds of St. Mark’s, the main Coptic Orthodox church in Cairo, during Sunday Mass.
There was heavy security at Orthodox churches across Egypt this past weekend for celebrations to mark the Orthodox Christmas on Saturday.
“Today’s attack was bigger than usual because we have had a very good couple of weeks and a peaceful Christmas,” said Mr. Attiya, the police spokesman. “They are trying to avenge their losses and stir things up again.”
Mr. Attiya said the police had killed five militants and were searching for the others. Officers are also searching for a separate group of militants who attacked a different checkpoint later in the day in El Arish and killed one police officer, he said.