The military said eleven Egyptian soldiers were attempting to thwart a “terrorist” attack on Saturday on the Suez Canal area, which is adjacent to the Sinai Peninsula, the epicenter of jihadist activities.
It was the biggest loss to the military in years in its long-running campaign in and around the Sinai against militants loyal to the Islamic State group.
The army said five soldiers were also injured in firing on the east bank of the canal, with security forces “continuing to pursue the terrorists and surrounded them in an isolated area of the Sinai.”
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi pledged on Facebook, “These terrorist operations will not defeat the determination of the country and military to uproot terrorism.”
Washington condemned the “terrorist attack in the Sinai targeting members of the Egyptian military” and offered its condolences to the families of the victims.
“For decades, the United States has been and remains Egypt’s strong partner in combating terrorism in the region,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula has been in the grip of an armed insurgency for more than a decade, which peaked in 2013 after the overthrow of the late Islamic President Mohamed Morsi.
In February 2018, the military and police launched a nationwide campaign against militants centered on North Sinai.
According to official figures, more than a thousand suspected terrorists and dozens of security personnel have been killed since the operation began.
In November, Egypt agreed with Israel to increase its forces around the border city of Rafa to drive out IS militants.
In August, the military said 13 militants had been killed and nine of its soldiers were “killed or wounded” during the conflict in the Sinai, without specifying when the fighting took place.
In recent years, pipelines carrying Egyptian oil and gas to neighboring Israel and Jordan have been a primary target of rebel attacks.