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Published: Sunday May 4, 2014 MYT 8:15:02 PM
Updated: Sunday May 4, 2014 MYT 8:15:58 PM

Egyptian militants claim attacks near tourist sites in Sinai

CAIRO (Reuters) - A radical Islamist group claimed responsibility on Sunday for two suicide bombings which killed a soldier and wounded at least eight other people near the Egyptian tourist city of Sharm El-Sheikh on Friday.

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, the most active of the militant groups waging an insurgency against the army-backed government since it deposed elected leader Mohamed Mursi last summer, made the claim in a statement posted online.

"We announce our responsibility for the attacks which targeted a security checkpoint and a tourist bus in South Sinai," the statement said. "We will not rest ... until we avenge Muslims' blood and honour."

Militant attacks and other political violence have intensified since the army overthrew Mursi last July following mass protests against his rule.

Many hundreds of Mursi supporters have been killed in the subsequent crackdown and tens of thousands arrested, including top leaders of his Muslim Brotherhood, which says it remains committed to peaceful activism.

There are fears that anti-government violence will escalate in the run-up to presidential elections on May 26 and 27 which former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who led Mursi's ousting, is widely expected to win.

The militant group's statement called on Egyptians to violently oppose the government and not to rely on peaceful actions.

Militant attacks in recent months have killed about 500 people, mostly policemen and soldiers, according to the government.

Sites connected to tourism, an important source of foreign currency for Egypt's economy, have largely been spared.

Early reports said the bus attacked on Friday was carrying Egyptians employed in the tourism industry, but the Interior Ministry said they were factory workers.

In a renewed outbreak of violence on Sunday, gunmen shot and killed a retired army brigadier-general in the northern Sinai town of Al-Arish, a security source said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

(Reporting by Stephen Kalin; editing by Andrew Roche)

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