Islamic State's Egyptian affiliate, Sinai Province, claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement on Twitter. It was second high-profile action in Egypt this week. On Monday, the prosecutor-general was killed in a car bombing in Cairo, raising questions about the government's ability to contain the insurgency. The army said five checkpoints were attacked by about 70 militants and that soldiers had destroyed three land cruisers fitted with anti-aircraft guns.

Security sources said militants were surrounding a police station in the town of Sheikh Zuweid and had planted bombs around it to prevent forces from leaving. Doctor Osama el-Sayed of El-Arish General Hospital in the provincial capiatl said 30 bodies had been brought in, "some of whom were wearing army fatigues".

The exact breakdown of identities of those killed was not immediately clear. Security sources had said at least 40  security personnel were killed and 40 wounded. The army spokesman said 22 of the attackers were killed and 10 soldiers were killed or wounded. Security sources stated the militants had planted bombs along a road between Sheikh Zuweid and an army camp to prevent the movement of any army supplies or reinforcements. Meanwhile, Apache helicopters and F-16 planes strafed the area.

The insurgency based in the Sinai is seeking to topple the Cairo government and has managed to defy one of the toughest security crackdowns in Egypt's history.

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