Egyptian police kill ISIS militant involved in Sinai monastery attack, with Bedouin help

ReutersSpecial police forces stand guard at a church at Saint Catherine's monastery, in the Sinai Peninsula, south of Egypt, in this file photo taken December 8, 2015.

With the help of Bedouin tribesmen, Egyptian police have tracked down and killed one of the Islamist militants involved in an attack near the St Catherine's monastery in Sinai, according to the country's Interior Ministry.

The attack, which was claimed by so-called Islamic State group, killed one policeman and wounded at least three near the monastery, which is one of the oldest and most famous Christian sites in the world.

The ministry said Bedouin tribesmen helped the authorities find several militants who fled the scene after the attack. Officials added that security forces then located and killed one of the militants, without providing details about what happened to the others.

An investigation is reportedly under way to identify the slain militant.

Damyanos, a monk who has been living at St Catherine's since 1963, said the attack took him by surprise. 'The monastery is very quiet' at the moment, he told AP, adding that there has been a heavy security presence since the attack.

The 81-year-old added that the monks who reside there are not afraid and believe God watches over them.

St Catherine's stands at the foot of Mount Horeb, where the 6th century monastery is one of the main tourist attractions in South Sinai.

The ISIS-led insurgency in the region is centred in northern Sinai, but the militants have occasionally struck in the central and south regions of the peninsula.

The militants opened fire on Tuesday from an elevated hilltop overlooking the police checkpoint outside the monastery, according to officials.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, the first on the monastery.

The attack came ahead of next week's visit to Egypt by Pope Francis and just over a week after suicide-bomber attacks on Coptic churches in Tanta and Alexandria, killing 45 people on Palm Sunday, also claimed by ISIS.

ISIS has vowed more attacks against Egypt's Christians, who make up 10 per cent of the country's population of 92 million people.