Egyptian officer killed in raid on Islamist militants


CAIRO (Reuters) - An Egyptian police officer was shot dead in a Nile Delta town on Thursday while trying to arrest suspects wanted in connection with the killing of a security official, the Interior Ministry said.

Captain Ahmed Samir came under fire during an early morning raid in the province of Qulubiya, the ministry said in a statement. The militants were suspected of involvement in the shooting in Cairo on Sunday of Interior Ministry Lieutenant Colonel Mohamed Mabruk.

Mabruk's killing deepened concerns that Egypt, a U.S. ally, could face an Islamist insurgency.

Mabruk was part of an Interior Ministry unit that closely tracks the Muslim Brotherhood, which has won every national vote since a popular uprising toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

The army ousted President Mohamed Mursi, a Brotherhood leader in July. Since then, attacks by Islamists based in the Sinai Peninsula near Israel have risen sharply.

Islamist militants have also attacked police officials in Cairo and elsewhere.

The cabinet said on Thursday it would give full support to the security forces and would review decisions by Mursi to free jailed militants while he was in office.

State-run newspaper Al-Ahram quoted a forensics specialist as saying Samir had died from a bullet wound to his neck, and that he was shot at a range of no more than five meters.

A Sinai-based militant group, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, has claimed responsibility for the killing of Mabruk, who security officials say had been due to testify in one of several legal cases against Mursi, who is on trial for inciting violence.

The army-backed government does not distinguish between the Brotherhood and al Qaeda-inspired militants in Sinai, who attack security forces almost daily.

A suicide car bombing killed at least 10 Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai on Wednesday, one of the deadliest attacks there since militants stepped up violence after Mursi's overthrow.

Militant violence, together with political tension between the Brotherhood and the government, is weighing on investment and tourism in Egypt, which has a peace treaty with Israel and controls the Suez Canal shipping route between Europe and Asia.

(Reporting By Maggie Fick; Editing by Michael Georgy and Alistair Lyon)