CAIRO (AFP) – A state of emergency came into force Saturday across much of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula after 30 soldiers were killed in a suicide car bombing by suspected extremists.
It was the deadliest attack on the country’s security forces since the army deposed president Mohamed Morsi last year, to the fury of his supporters.
The state of emergency, which took effect from 0300 GMT in the north and centre of the Sinai, will remain in place for three months, the president’s office said.
A curfew is in force from 5pm to 7am.
Egypt also announced it would close the Rafah crossing into the Gaza Strip, the only route into the Palestinian territory not controlled by Israel.
“The army and the police will take all necessary measures to tackle the dangers of terrorism and its financing, to preserve the security of the region… and protect the lives of citizens,” the presidential decree said.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces was due to meet on Saturday to decide what measures to implement under the state of emergency.
The bombing on Friday was carried out by a suspected extremist who rammed a checkpoint with his explosives-packed vehicle, security officials said.
The attack, in an agricultural area northwest of El-Arish, the main town in north Sinai, also left 29 other soldiers wounded, medics said.
A senior army official and five officers were said to be among those wounded.
Gunmen also shot dead an officer and wounded two soldiers on Friday at another checkpoint south of El-Arish, security officials said.
Extremists in the peninsula have killed scores of policemen and soldiers since Morsi’s overthrow to avenge a bloody police crackdown on his supporters.
The attacks have dealt a further blow to a tourism industry already reeling after a 2011 uprising that overthrew long-time president Hosni Mubarak.
While south Sinai is dotted with tourist resorts on the Red Sea – a popular destination for scuba divers – the lawless north is a base for militants who have launched a wave of attacks, mostly targeting security forces.
The peninsula’s southern coastline has been largely spared from he violence rocking the country since the 2011 revolt, partly thanks to security checkpoints in the region.