TODAY   |  August 19, 2013

Engel: Egypt descending into an insurgency

More violence broke out in Egypt this morning when Islamic militants attacked two minivans full of unarmed police officers, killing at least 25. NBC’s Richard Engel reports.

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>> policemen killing 25 of them. richard engle joins us in cairo with more. richard, good morning.

>> reporter: good morning, natalie. disturbing incidents happening here. first the one you mentioned in the sinai peninsula this morning. two those minivans full of unarmed police officers were stopped by militants. the militants forced the police officers to get out of the vehicle and then executed 25 of them and overnight 36 prisoners were killed allegedly while trying to escape. they were in the back of a truck. police fired tier gas into the truck and the prisoners died by suffocation. their families are saying it was carried out by police. it may have started as a military crack down, but egypt now appears to be descending into an insurgecy with both sides armed and taking causalities. islamic extremists joined the fight backing the muslim brotherhood and attacking egyptian security forces . around 200 police have been killed in egypt since last week. so have some 900 supporters of the muslim brotherhood . many of them shot unarmed while protesting against the military for ousting egypt 's democratically elected president. the man that did that, the military leader gave a nationally tell sized address overnight to defend a coo saying it was necessary to stop terrorism. the general insists the vast majority of egyptians are with him and he doesn't want to govern the country for long. the obama administration is weighing it's response. the state department putting a hold on economic aid to the government. though no change in critical military aid . though that could come.

>> there's other strategic issues here including the safety and stability of israel.

>> the u.s. faces a tough choice. stick with it's long time ally which claims it needs support now more than ever to fight terrorism, or back away. while washington appears to be wavering, saudi arabia , kuwait, and jordan have all come out strongly in support of egypt 's military.