Unidentified armed men have attacked a police vehicle near the Egyptian, capital, Cairo, killing eight policemen.

In a statement released on Sunday on its official Facebook page, the Egyptian Interior Ministry said that the assault was carried out by four gunmen dressed in civilian clothes in the city of Helwan, just south of Cairo.

The assailants, who were carrying automatic weapons, got out of a small pick-up truck, stopped the police car, sprayed it with bullets and then fled the scene, according to the statement.

A first lieutenant was among the eight victims of the incident, the statement said, adding that an investigation was underway to identify those behind the deadly attack. 

Local residents said the gunmen wore masks.

No individual or group has claimed responsibility for the blast, but reports say the assailants were waving flags of the Daesh terror group at the time of the attack.

Such deadly assaults are often blamed on Daesh-affiliated militants mainly based in Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula.

People carry the coffin of Egyptian army's first lieutenant, Mohamed Ashraf, during his funeral procession in Ashmoun, Egypt, July 2, 2015.©AP


Militants from the Takfiri Velayat Sinai group, previously known as Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, have claimed credit for most of the fatal attacks, mainly targeting the army and police, in the capital and the volatile Sinai Peninsula.

The militants have taken advantage of the turmoil in Egypt caused by the 2013 ouster of the first democratically-elected president, Mohamed Morsi, in a military coup.

The Sinai desert region has been under a state of emergency since October 2014, following a deadly terrorist raid that left 33 Egyptian soldiers dead.