World Bulletin/News Desk
The Egyptian army relies heavily on US-made Apache helicopter gunships to hunt down gunmen in the Sinai Peninsula, while the militants often use motorcycles for their hit-and-run attacks.
Security sources said three policemen sustained life-threatening injuries on Thursday when unknown militants opened fire at them in the North Sinai city of Arish before fleeing the scene.
Militant groups have stepped up attacks on army and police facilities in Sinai since the July 3 ouster of elected President Mohamed Morsi by the military.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the multiple attacks that have killed at least 16 people in the past ten days.
Security sources blame the attacks on groups which want to send a message to Egypt's military that they will not be sent back to prison following Morsi's overthrow.
Earlier this month, the army launched a major offensive against armed groups in Sinai.
Apache helicopter gunships have been deployed in the area since the start of the operation, especially in Arish, Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah, according to an Anadolu Agency reporter.
Eyewitnesses say military reinforcements – including 13 armored vehicles, 13 tanks, two personnel carriers and two military jeeps – have already arrived in Arish.
But the army is increasingly depending on Apache helicopters to hunt down the attackers, who often flee the scene on motorcycles and vanish into nearby mountainous areas.
Experts believe the Egyptian army is unprepared for ground battles with militants holed up in Sinai's rugged terrain.
Eyewitnesses reported confrontations between army troops and gunmen on Friday and Saturday in the Taweel and Wahshy districts of Arish and southern Sheikh Zuweid.
Some casualties were reported among the militants, with locals seeing gunmen moving their injured to remote areas in the desert.
According to security sources, 37 gunmen have been killed so far in ongoing military operations in Sinai.
He said many tribal leaders were providing the army with information on the movement of militants, many of whom hail from local tribes and are affiliated with Sinai-based groups.
A security source said the people of Sinai were also cooperating with the army.
Ahmed, a Sheikh Zuweid resident, said locals were upset with the gunmen, blaming them for new restrictions on movement throughout the peninsula.
He said that locals now usually stay away from roads with security checkpoints and government buildings manned by army troops, both of which had become potential targets for attacks.Last Mod: 19 Temmuz 2013, 09:39