Gunmen have shot dead an Egyptian soldier during an attack on a checkpoint in the restive north of Sinai, a police
official said.

The attack took place near the town of El-Arish on Sunday, where Islamists this week stormed the provincial headquarters and raised the banner of Islamist fighters.

Earlier on Sunday, armed men attacked four security checkpoints in the North Sinai town of Sheikh Zuweid, close to Egypt's border with Israel and the Gaza Strip, part of an upsurge of violence there since the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi.

Gunmen in pickup trucks exchanged gunfire with soldiers and police in the lawless province early morning, but there were no casualties, security sources said.

Fighters have launched sporadic attacks in North Sinai since the ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 created a security vacuum in the region.

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On Friday, five security officers were killed in skirmishes with suspected militants in El Arish, the regional capital.

On Saturday, a priest was also killed there by a group of militants, four other checkpoints were fired upon and an explosion hit an Egyptian pipeline supplying gas to Jordan.

The fire caused by the explosion was under control by early Sunday morning, state media reported. The pipeline has been attacked more than 10 times since Mubarak's overthrow during the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.

It was not immediately clear if the latest attacks were linked to the ouster of Morsi, democratically elected a year
ago, by the military after nationwide protests.

His Muslim Brotherhood movement has since held its own protests in which dozens have been killed.

On Sunday, the Salafi Jihadi group, one of the biggest Sinai-based groups, issued a statement on a jihadist website saying that "current events ravaging the country" were affecting Sinai.

It also threatened attacks on the "repressive practices" of the police and military forces on people in Sinai.

The group has issued statements threatening attacks on Israel previously, but this was the first known direct threat they have issued against Egyptian security forces.

Egypt has been in turmoil since the overthrow of Morsi, with supporters and opponents of the ousted president engaging in deadly clashes.

The country has struggled to control the security in the peninsula since Mubarak's departure. Hard-line groups took advantage of the collapse of security that followed and launched many attacks on army and police troops there.

Source: Agencies