Egyptian military vehicle in northern Sinai
Egyptian military vehicle in northern SinaiReuters

18 people were killed in an attack on Monday on a security convoy in Egypt's North Sinai, where police and troops are battling a jihadist insurgency, security and medical sources said, according to AFP.

The interior ministry confirmed an attack around the town of Bir al-Abed had caused deaths and injuries but did not provide a toll.

The attack took place when a vehicle tried to break through a security convoy passing between Qantara near the Egyptian port city of Ismailiya, and El-Arish, the capital of North Sinai.

The Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying through its Amaq news agency that it killed eight Egyptian soldiers in an ambush on the outskirts of El-Arish,

"As the forces dealt with the car, it blew up," the ministry said, adding that the explosion was followed by a shootout with "militant elements who were hiding in the desert area alongside the road.”

It was not immediately clear whether any civilians were among the dead.

Egyptian forces have been battling a growing insurgency in the northern Sinai for years. Most of the attacks in the region have been claimed by the Sinai Province, ISIS’ Egypt affiliate which pledged allegiance to the jihadists in 2014.

The United States condemned Monday’s attack.

"We will continue to stand with Egypt as it confronts the threat from terrorism," the State Department said in a statement.

In addition to its attacks in the Sinai, Sinai Province has carried out attacks elsewhere, including in Cairo, and has claimed attacks that have killed more than 100 Coptic Christians since December.

Coptic Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population. In 2015, ISIS released a video purportedly showing the beheading of the Coptic Christians it had captured in the Libyan capital Tripoli.