Cairo: At least 25 Egyptian policemen were killed on Monday when militants ambushed them in the border city of Rafah, hours after the Muslim Brotherhood accused security forces of the "cold-blooded" murder of 36 Islamists.
The brazen attack brought fresh challenges for the country`s army-backed interim government as it struggles to deal with a tense standoff with the Brotherhood that has left over 850 people dead since the security forces stormed two camps of supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi on August 14.
The supporters of Muslim Brotherhood have been staging demonstrations across the nation demanding reinstatement of Morsi - the country`s first freely elected president - since his removal on July 3 by the army.
Rafah, on the border between Egypt and Gaza, is the site of a key border crossing. In response to the attack, Egypt closed the crossing, state-run Nile TV reported.
The policemen were in two buses which came under attack from men armed with rocket-propelled grenades in the Sinai Peninsula. At least three other policemen were injured in the attack, the report said.
The military recently intensified a crackdown against militants in Sinai, where attacks have surged since the fall of longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Earlier, the Muslim Brotherhood accused security forces of carrying out "cold-blooded" murder after at least 36 Islamists were killed while they tried to escape from a prison convoy.
Initially, the interior ministry said the detainees died in an exchange of fire after some of them took a military officer hostage and a convoy of prison vehicles, transporting a total of 612 detainees to Abu Zaabal prison in Qalyubia province, was attacked by unidentified gunmen.
But later the ministry said the prisoners died from the effects of inhaling tear gas, which was fired when the escaping detainees took a police officer hostage. He was freed, but was badly injured, the military`s statement added.
"Thirty-six of the prisoners died of suffocation and crowding after tear gas was used to stop their escape," the Ministry said.
In a statement, the Anti-Coup Alliance said it had "obtained evidence of the assassination of anti-coup detainees in a truck transferring them to Abu Zaabal prison".
"They were reportedly assassinated in their truck with live ammunition and tear gas fired from windows."
"The murder of 35 detained anti-coup protesters affirms the intentional violence aimed at opponents of the coup, and the cold-blooded killing of which they are targets," it said in a statement in English.
The group said it "puts full criminal responsibility on leaders of the 3rd of July coup, beginning with Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, (Egypt`s army chief), and Minister of Interior Muhammad Ibrahim Kamel."
In the statement, the Anti-Coup Alliance demanded "an international investigation into this horrific crime, in addition to other crimes committed by leaders of the 3rd of July coup".
Gen Sisi deposed Morsi, saying the army could not ignore the millions of protesters who had been demanding the resignation of Egypt`s first democratically elected president.
More than 866 people, including 70 police and soldiers, are reported to have been killed since Wednesday when security forces cleared two Cairo sit-in camps set up by supporters of Morsi since his ouster. They were demanding the return of ousted president.
More than 1,000 Brotherhood members have been detained in raids since Wednesday, with security sources saying about 300 were held in several cities on Sunday, including Cairo, Alexandria, Assiut and Suez.