Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the killing of eight Egyptian police officers on the outskirts of Cairo on Sunday.
The assault was retaliation for the imprisonment of “virtuous and immaculate” Muslim women in Egyptian jails, the group said in a statement.
The attack is the biggest Cairo has seen in months, though Islamic State and other militant groups have been carrying out frequent assaults on police and military targets in the Sinai Peninsula.
Eight officers were killed in a drive-by shooting in the Cairo suburb of Helwan after four armed men obstructed their patrol in the early hours of Sunday, the Egyptian Interior Ministry said in a statement. The assailants descended from a pickup truck that bore an Islamic State slogan, according to eyewitnesses quoted by local media. All four attackers managed to successfully escape the scene after seizing a number of “light weapons” from the officers, Islamic State claimed in its statement.
Hundreds of Egyptian police and army officers have been killed in attacks claimed by Islamic State and a local affiliate group, known as “Sinai Province,” since the army-led ouster of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
Sinai Province was formerly known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis. The group was responsible for the blast that hit Cairo’s security directorate in January 2014, the deaths of at least 21 soldiers in the Western Desert in July 2014, and the deaths of 31 soldiers in Sinai three months later.
The group declared its allegiance to Islamic State in November 2014, and has since referred to itself as “the Sinai Province of the Islamic State caliphate.”
The merging of the two movements allowed Islamic State to carry out its largest incursion into Egypt in July 2015, when more than 100 of its militants attacked several army checkpoints, killing no less than 21 soldiers and temporarily occupying the town of Sheikh Zuweid in North Sinai.
The biggest attack claimed by Islamic State in Egypt took place in October 2015, when the group took down the Russian Metrojet airliner carrying tourists from Southern Sinai to St. Petersburg, killing all 224 people on board.
Hassan is a special correspondent.