Egypt kills 18 militants in Sinai operation

CAIRO (AFP) – Egypt’s military said it killed 18 suspected extremist militants in aerial and ground operations in the restive North Sinai region late on Tuesday, as part of its battle to quell a long-running insurgency.

The army said in a statement that its forces succeeded in foiling “an attack by takfiri terrorist elements on one of the security complexes” in the town of Bir al-Abd.

Egyptian security officials use the term takfiri to designate extremist militants.

“In cooperation with the air force, security forces managed to chase the takfiri elements across a farm and in abandoned houses killing 18, including one wearing an explosive belt,” the statement said.

Two military personnel were killed and four others wounded in the operations in Bir al-Abd. Troops also destroyed four cars including three that were packed with explosives.

The town has been the site of several terror attacks claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group including the deadliest attack in modern Egyptian history, in which more than 300 worshippers were gunned down in a mosque in 2017.

The late Tuesday statement came after videos surfaced on social media purportedly showing plumes of smoke, gunfire and residents screaming for their lives.

AFP could not verify the authenticity of the short clips posted online. Security forces have been battling a hardened extremist insurgency in Egypt’s northeast Sinai Peninsula spearheaded by a local IS affiliate.

In February 2018, authorities launched a nationwide operation against Islamist militants, focussed on North Sinai.

Around 990 suspected militants have been killed in the region along with dozens of security personnel, according to official figures.