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Attack on Sinai police station leaves 16 Egyptian border guards dead

Officials say masked gunmen have killed 16 Egyptian soldiers at a checkpoint along the border with Gaza and Israel. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

At least 16 Egyptian border guards were killed and seven wounded in an armed attack on a police station in Rafah, in North Sinai on the border between Egypt and Israel, on Sunday, medical and security sources said.

Egyptian state television reported that an Islamist militant group was behind the attack that came at sunset.

The Israeli military said the attack was part of a plot to abduct an Israeli soldier. Two vehicles commandeered by the attackers crashed into Israel, where one blew up and the other was struck by the Israeli air force.

In a statement, Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel's military and the internal security agency "thwarted an attack that could have injured many. The militants' attack methods again raise the need for determined Egyptian action to enforce security and prevent terror in the Sinai."

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Egyptian state TV said the attack on the checkpoint was carried out by Islamist militants who coordinated with Palestinians who entered Egypt from Gaza and Egyptians in Sinai.

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi called for an urgent meeting with the country's military council. He said the attackers "will pay dearly."

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Israeli government spokesman Ofir Gendelman said seven militants were killed, four on the Israeli side and three in Egypt.

IDF via AFP - Getty Images

A picture released by the Israeli army shows a vehicle burning near the Kerem Shalom border crossing after unidentified gunmen crossed into Israel from Egypt late Sunday.

Israeli soldiers were combing the area for other militants who might still be on the Israeli side of the border. The military instructed Israeli civilians to stay inside their homes.

An Egyptian military official said Egyptian troops were pursuing the militants who returned to Egypt.

Egyptian officials have been warning of a deteriorating security situation in Sinai, where militants have taken advantage of a security vacuum in the area following the uprising that toppled longtime President Hosni Mubarak last year.

Since Mubarak stepped down, Israel has allowed Egypt to send in more troops to Sinai, which has been mostly demilitarized according to the 1979 peace deal between the two countries.

This article includes reporting by Reuters and The Associated Press.

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