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Egypt navy ship ‘hit by Sinai Islamic State militants’ missile’

Islamic State-affiliated militants in Sinai say they have carried out a missile attack on an Egyptian naval vessel in the Mediterranean Sea.

The militants, who call themselves Sinai Province, posted pictures online of what looked like a missile followed by a large explosion on the ship.

Egyptian officials said a coastguard vessel caught fire after a gun-fight with militants on the shore.

The army said there were no casualties, contradicting the militants’ claim.

The incident happened in waters off the north Sinai town of Rafah, which neighbours the Gaza Strip.

The SITE Intelligence Group carried a statement and pictures from Sinai Province which it said showed a guided anti-tank missile moments before it struck the vessel, and then the moment of impact.

Witnesses said they saw other naval boats rushing to the scene to rescue those on board the burning vessel.

It follows a wave of attacks on the Egyptian military by Sinai Province.

Earlier this month, more than 100 people – including at least 17 soldiers – were killed in clashes after militants launched near-simultaneous raids on military checkpoints in Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah in Sinai.

Egypt has vowed to rid its Sinai Peninsula of the militants, and has had a state of emergency and a curfew in place since last October.

Sinai Province was previously called Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (Champions of Jerusalem), but announced a name change in November 2014 when it pledged allegiance to IS, the militant organisation that has taken over large parts of Iraq and Syria.

The group has been on the rise since the military overthrew Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July 2013, and has killed at least 600 police and armed forces personnel since then.