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Ambushes by armed men in the restive northern Sinai Peninsula have killed at least 15 soldiers and two civilians, according to Egyptian security and medical officials.

The attacks early on Thursday, that also wounded at least 19 other soldiers and several more civilians, came as Egypt continues its battle against armed groups operating in the northern Sinai, which borders Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Gunmen opened fire on soldiers with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades at five separate checkpoints throughout the northern Sinai region including near Sheikh Zuweid, east of the provincial capital of al-Arish, the Agence France-Press news agency reported.

Egyptian military reports also allege that at least 15 armed men were also killed by the military forces during the attacks, but the toll could not be verified by medics.

It was the deadliest attack in Sinai since suicide car bombers and gunmen killed several dozen soldiers at a military base in al-Arish in January.

Attacks mainly targeting Egyptian security forces have spiked since the 2013 military coup which toppled President Mohamed Morsi following protests against his rule.

Most of the biggest attacks have been claimed by a Sinai-based group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, which pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) last year.

The most recent attacks suggest that fighters were still capable of conducting large scale attacks in broad daylight despite a massive army deployment in the region.

The security officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to brief reporters.

Source: Agencies