Bomb, attacks hit Egypt's Sinai as army calls for rallies

CAIRO Wed Jul 24, 2013 2:51pm EDT

1 of 3. People check the scene where a car bomb exploded in near the port town of El-Arish in Egypt's Sinai peninsula July 24, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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CAIRO (Reuters) - A car bomb exploded near a police base and two soldiers were killed in separate, multiple attacks in Egypt's lawless Sinai peninsula, which has seen a spike in violence since the July 3 army ouster of the country's Islamist president.

Four militants died when the car, rigged with gas canisters and carrying explosive belts, detonated in a desert area near the port town of El-Arish on Wednesday, the sources said.

The attacks happened just hours after the head of Egypt's military called for rallies to back efforts to quell violence unleashed by the overthrow of Mohamed Mursi.

General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called for people to fill the streets on Friday and give him a mandate to confront the unrest, in which around 100 people have died in clashes between Mursi's supporters, his opponents and the security forces.

Army sources estimate there are around 1,000 armed militants in Sinai, many of them nomadic Bedouin tribesmen, divided into different groups with varying ideologies or clan loyalties, and hard to track in the harsh terrain.

Some want to establish Islamic law in Egypt, and are likely to have been incensed by Mursi's removal. Weapons are flowing in, especially from Libya, and a number of the groups are thought to have links with al Qaeda.

Six police and army positions were attacked on Wednesday in North Sinai, a desert region near Egypt's border with Israel and the Palestinian Gaza Strip.

Gunmen have attacked security checkpoints and other targets on an almost daily basis since July 3, killing at least 15 people and wounding dozens.

The militants usually strike at night but the two soldiers and the bombing occurred in separate, daylight attacks. Suicide attacks are rare.

(Reporting by Asma Alsharif and Yusri Mohamed; Editing by Noah Browning and Andrew Heavens)

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