CAIRO: Militants attacked a police checkpoint near a Mediterranean resort area frequented by Egyptian holidaymakers, killing five policemen and losing four of their own in the ensuing gun battle, the Interior Ministry said Wednesday.
In a statement on its Facebook page, the ministry said the attack took place in the Dhabaa area in the coastal province of Matrouh late Tuesday. Security forces deployed at a nearby port rushed to the site and pursued the attackers, which it described as "terrorists."
Egyptian daily Al-Masry al-Youm said the attackers shot and killed the policemen, then set fire to their vehicle, leaving their bodies badly charred.
The Interior Ministry statement updated initial descriptions of the attack given to The Associated Press and reported late Tuesday by a security official who had said two policemen were killed in a car crash while pursuing militants.
Egypt has seen a rise in militant attacks since the ouster last July of its Islamist president and a crackdown on his supporters.
Later Wednesday, an Egyptian judge confirmed the death sentences of 12 men it says are Islamists who murdered a senior police officer last year. The confirmation has been approved by the country's top Muslim religious authority, who has an advisory role, but will likely face appeal. All but seven defendants were tried in absentia.
The case is rooted in the September police raid on an Islamist militant stronghold near the Pyramids of Giza, where militants shot dead Gen. Nabil Farrag. A month earlier in the same village, Kerdasa, a mob attacked a police station there, killing 15 policemen and mutilating the bodies.
That attack was in retaliation for a heavy crackdown by security forces on supporters of the ousted president, Mohammad Morsi, which left hundreds dead.