Emergency measures to last three months after suicide car bomb kills 30 soldiers
The bombing yesterday was carried out by a suspected jihadist who rammed a checkpoint with his explosives-packed vehicle, security officials said.
It was deadliest attack on the security forces since the army deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last year.
The decision was also taken to 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 attack, in an agricultural area northwest of El-Arish, the main town in north Sinai, killed at least 30 soldiers and left 29 others injured, 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 at another checkpoint south of El-Arish yesterday, security officials said.
Jihadists in the peninsula have killed scores of police officers and soldiers since Morsi’s overthrow to avenge a bloody police crackdown on his supporters.
After Friday’s attack, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi Sisi announced three days of national mourning and summoned a meeting of the national defence council – the country’s highest security body – to discuss the killings, his office said.
The EU and US both condemned the attack.
“The United States continues to support the Egyptian government’s efforts to counter the threat of terrorism in Egypt as part of our commitments to the strategic partnership between our two countries,” the State Department said.
“We regret the loss of life and express our deepest condolences to the families of the victims,” an EU spokesman said.
It was the latest in a string of bloody attacks against security forces in Egypt.
In August 2013, just weeks after the army ousted Morsi, 25 soldiers were killed in the Sinai when gunmen opened fire at two buses transporting troops with automatic rifles and rocket launchers.
In July this year, 22 border guards were killed in the western desert near the border with Libya.
Militants killed 17 police officers in two bombings in the Sinai later the same month and released footage of the attacks.
Those bombings were claimed by Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, the most active militant group in Egypt.
From the desert and mountainous Sinai, which borders the Gaza Strip and Israel, the attacks have also extended to the capital and the Nile Delta to the north.
Ansar Beit al-Maqdis tried to assassinate the interior minister in Cairo last year with a car bomb.
The group has expressed support for Islamic State (IS) group jihadists in Iraq and Syria, although it has not formally pledged its allegiance.
The military has said it killed at least 22 militants in October, including an Ansar Beit al-Maqdis commander.
The group itself has acknowledged the arrest or deaths of militants, but the army has been unable so far to crush them despite a massive operation in which it has deployed attack helicopters and tanks.
The latest bombing came after an Egyptian military court sentenced to death seven members of Ansar Beit al-Maqdis on Tuesday for carrying out deadly attacks on the army.