CAIRO, Aug. 20 (Xinhua) -- Suspected militants ambushed two busloads of off-duty security forces in Egypt's northern Sinai Peninsula on Monday, killing at least 25 and injuring three others.
The daylight attack, which took place in the border city of Rafah, has deepened the turmoil roiling the most populous Arab country and underscored the uncertainty of the strategic region.
Rafah, on the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, is regarded as a key site for border crossing. Egyptian authorities closed the crossing later in response to the bloody ambush, which they called a "terrorist act."
The bloodshed came a day after 36 members of the Muslim Brotherhood died in what the authorities described as an attempted jailbreak on the outskirts of Cairo.
Since Egyptian security forces began last week to clear out sit-ins staged by supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood, the ensuing violence has claimed some 1,000 lives.
In Monday's attack, the assailants, armed with rocket-propelled grenades, forced the two mini-buses to stop, asked the passengers to leave the vehicles and forced them to lie on the ground before opening fire.
Military helicopters have transferred the wounded to hospital for treatment, and security deployment has been reinforced at main roads in a bid to arrest the suspects.
Since former President Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February 2011, attacks have surged in Sinai. The situation has become worse after Morsi's July 3 ouster.
Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim mourned the victims on Monday and issued an order to promote all the victims to a higher rank in honor of their sacrifices and provide their families with health and social services.
Live images of the country's state TV showed late Sunday that several helicopters landed in Cairo Almazah military airport with bodies wrapped with Egyptian national flags.
Ibrahim also stressed the necessity that all sides to set aside differences for the sake of the country's core interests.
On Monday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned the Sinai ambush and expressed the hope that "the perpetrators will be swiftly identified and brought to justice."
Ahmed Aref, spokesman of the Muslim Brotherhood, also denounced the deadly attack on policemen in a statement published at the organization's Freedom and Justice Party official website.
But he also argued that the incident was as severe as the alleged jailbreak on Sunday because almost all prisoners died from suffocation after the armed forces fired tear gas to them.
His remarks differed from the account of Egypt's state media, which said the deaths took place after security forces clashed with gunmen near the prison and were forced to use tear gas.
State media also reported that the gunmen belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood.
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