Gunmen have killed 21 Egyptian soldiers at a checkpoint near the border with Libya in one of the biggest assaults on Egypt’s security forces in years.
Egyptian security officials described the attackers as “smugglers”, but an army spokesman said on his Facebook page that “terrorists” – the term authorities use to describe Islamist militants – were behind the attack.
However, no one has claimed responsibility for the killings.
An ammunitions depot at theEl-Farafrah post was blown up by a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) in an exchange of fire, killing the soldiers and wounding four others.Two of the gunmen died during the assault.
The military said two booby-trapped vehicles were used in the attack, and bomb experts have defused the explosives.
The attack took place in Wadi al Gadid, a desert area 390 miles (630km) west of Cairo, which borders both Libya and Sudan.
It was the second assault on the same checkpoint in less than three months.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi has repeatedly expressed concerns about militants who have stepped up attacks, mainly in the Sinai Peninsula bordering Israel and the Gaza Strip, on security forces since Islamist president Mohammed Morsi was toppled in July 2013.
Security officials claim militants operating in Libya, who have ambitions similar to the al Qaeda breakaway group ISIS that has seized large swathes of Iraq, aretrying to forge ties with Sinai militants.