At least 12 members of Egypt's security forces have been killed and six wounded in an attack on a checkpoint in North Sinai province.

The attack on Friday took place 40km from the town of Bir al-Abd, and was carried out using assault rifles and some heavier weapons, sources told Reuters news agency.

"An armed group of terrorist elements attacked a security checkpoint in North Sinai this morning using four-wheel drives and were immediately engaged. Our forces killed 15 terrorists," the military said in a statement.

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Mortar rounds were fired at the army post, a police official and a medic told AFP news agency.

Those wounded soldiers were taken to a hospital in el-Arish. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.

An insurgency in the rugged and thinly populated Sinai peninsula gained pace after the Egyptian military overthrew president Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's oldest Islamist movement, in mid-2013 following mass protests against his rule.

Bir al-Abd has so far been largely spared the violence that has rocked northern Sinai over the past three years.

The armed group staging attacks pledged allegiance to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in 2014 and adopted the name Sinai Province. It is blamed for the killing of hundreds of soldiers and policemen, and has started to hit Western targets within Egypt.

The group claimed the bombing last year of a Russian airliner carrying tourists home from a Sinai resort. All 224 people on board were killed.

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Source: News Agencies