Egyptian officials say 55 police killed in Cairo shootout

Flickr Robert Muckley

People carry on Saturday the coffin of police captain Ahmed Fayez, who was killed in a raid about 84 miles southwest of Cairo.

The violence was a stark indication of a core challenge facing the government of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, a vital American ally in the Middle East. It is blamed for the killing of hundreds of soldiers and policemen and has started to target other areas, including Egypt's Christian Copts. The group has claimed attacks around Cairo targeting judges and police.

The interior ministry said a "number" of policemen had been killed as well as some militants, but did not elaborate.

An official statement issued on October 21 said the incident would be investigated, suggesting that the heavy death toll may have been partially caused by incompetence, intelligence failures, or lack of coordination. "Islamic State" (IS) militants based in the Sinai Peninsula have also increased attacks across the country recently.

The violence erupted when security forces targeted insurgents near the Bahariya oasis in the country's Western Desert, about 100 miles from the capital Cairo.

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Security officials said the explosion set on fire multiple vehicles at Pishin Stop in the provincial capital of Balochistan. Senior police official, Razzak Cheema said a auto with explosives was apparently rammed from behind into the truck.

Earlier reports said that 14 police officers were killed and eight others injured during the clashes.

If the higher death toll is true, it would be the single deadliest assault on Egypt's security forces by Islamist militants in recent memory.

The sources said authorities were following a lead to an apartment thought to house eight suspected members of Hasm, a group which has claimed several attacks around the capital targeting judges and policemen since past year. As they approached, they were ambushed by gunmen using rocket-propelled grenades and bombs.

A fake claim in the name of the small extremist group Hasam, reported by multiple local media, had spread on social media soon after the shootout.

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