Islamic State Ambush in Egypt's Sinai Leaves at Least 18 Dead

An Egyptian army vehicle stands guard outside Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in central Cairo a few hours before Pope Francis' visit commences

The Egyptian Interior ministry confirmed the attack in a statement and said several policemen were killed or wounded, but did not provide any casualty figures. "We will continue to stand with Egypt as it confronts the threat from terrorism", Heather Nauert said.

"The United States strongly condemns the terrorist attack on a security convoy in Egypt today that left at least 18 dead and others injured". A huge cache of arms and ammunition was also recovered by the police.

The explosion was followed by a shootout with "militant elements who were hiding in the desert area alongside the road", the ministry said. No one claimed responsibility for the attack.

The ambush came a day after authorities said they had caught a cell planning attacks in the capital, Cairo. That was the deadliest attack in two years.

Four armoured vehicles were destroyed due to roadside bombs. Hundreds of police and army personnel have been killed since then. They added that a police brigadier general was among the wounded.

The attack, which took place near Al-Arish, began when a vehicle that drove toward the convoy wouldn't stop and exploded when fired upon by the police traveling in the convoy.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. Militants detonated an improvised explosive device and destroyed three armored cars, and the vehicle with the established system of suppression of signal. The suspected militants later opened fire with machine guns.

The Sinai - a triangular piece of land bordering southern Israel and the Gaza Strip - has emerged as the main battleground in the faceoff between Islamist militants and President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.

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