Egypt has said its security forces have killed 450 armed fighters since the beginning of its eight-month offensive against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, otherwise known ISIS) in the Sinai peninsula.
Army Spokesman Tamer al-Rifai said the large-scale operation, dubbed “Sinai 2018,” has also resulted in the dismantling of some 1,200 explosive devices and the destruction of about 1,900 vehicles and motorcycles.
The military launched the operation in February to rid the arid and sparsely populated area – an attractive region for armed groups waging a war against the government – of ISIL fighters after an attack on a mosque in late 2017 that killed more than 300 people.
Al-Rifai said the government had spent $1.38bn to compensate residents forced to relocate from northern Sinai.
According to army figures, around 30 soldiers have been killed during the operation.
Armed groups began staging attacks against state security forces after the 2013 overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected president.
Morsi was forced out by the military in the face of mass protests against his rule.
The army on Tuesday rejected criticism from rights groups over the impact on civilians of its campaign in Sinai.
It said that people in the peninsula support its operation and receive humanitarian aid.
“All air strikes are carried out by the army outside residential areas,” al-Rifai said on Tuesday.
Journalists are barred from going to areas targeted in the Sinai 2018 campaign, although the army organised a rare visit to the North Sinai capital El Arish in July.
A countrywide state of emergency was imposed in April last year, following two suicide bombings at churches which were claimed by ISIL.
On Tuesday, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi extended the measure by a further three months.