Cairo: Militants killed eight Egyptian paramilitaries on Wednesday at a checkpoint in the Sinai Peninsula, centre of a long-running Islamist militant insurgency, security and medical sources said.

“Eight killed and three wounded were transferred to El-Arish public hospital. All of the victims were Central Security Force personnel,” a medical source told AFP.

A security source said reinforcements had been dispatched to the checkpoint and gun fire was being exchanged.

“The checkpoint is currently surrounded by the army and police,” he said.

Egyptian state television said there were fears the death toll could rise as there were reports of attacks on multiple checkpoints.

The attack came at the start of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

No group has claimed responsibility so far for the early morning attack and authorities have not yet commented.

Egypt has for years been battling insurgents in the North Sinai affiliated with Daesh.

Hundreds of police officers and soldiers have been killed in militant attacks which intensified after the army’s ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

In February 2018, the army launched a nationwide offensive against the militants focused mainly on the North Sinai.

According to official figures, around 650 militants have been killed since the start of the operation, while the army has lost some 50 soldiers.

No independent statistics are available and the region is largely cut off to journalists making verification of casualty figures extremely difficult.