Middle East

Egyptian policemen killed in ambush south of Cairo

People gather gather around a bullet-ridden police vehicle in Helwan, south of Cairo - 8 May 2016 Image copyright AP
Image caption The police van was on patrol in Helwan overnight

Eight plainclothes policemen in Egypt have been shot dead on the outskirts of the capital, Cairo, officials say.

Their white police van was ambushed in the early hours of Sunday morning in the southern district of Helwan.

Four gunmen in a truck sprayed the vehicle with bullets from automatic weapons, the interior ministry said.

Militants affiliated to so-called Islamic State (IS), who usually operate in the Sinai Peninsula, say they carried out the attack.

Known as Sinai Province, the IS faction has killed hundreds of security personnel in the Sinai region since the military overthrew Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July 2013.

The insurgents have recently conducted hit-and-run attacks on police in Cairo and been behind small-scale bombings in the city.

BBC World Service Middle East editor Sebastian Usher says killing so many policemen so near Cairo is a worrying escalation.

The group posted pictures online, showing several bodies of the policemen riddled with bullets.

More on IS in Egypt:

Image copyright Twitter
  • Formerly known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (Supporters of Jerusalem), group first appeared in September 2011
  • Changed name to Sinai Province and pledged allegiance to IS in November 2014
  • Intensified attacks since 2013 coup
  • Said it downed a Russian airliner over the Sinai in October 2015.

Profile: Sinai Province militant group

Who are Sinai militant groups?

The IS statement said the fighters, who were reportedly wearing masks, seized light weapons from the policemen before they fled unharmed, the Associated Press news agency reports.

The statement said the attack was in revenge for Islamist women held in Egyptian jails.

The policemen, who were patrolling the area when the truck blocked their path, included a lieutenant and seven low-ranking officers, the interior ministry said.

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