Egyptian security forces killed 16 suspected armed fighters in two separate raids in the city of Arish in the restive northern Sinai Peninsula, state media said on Tuesday.
The report came the day after an explosion in central Cairo killed three policemen.
The National Security Department was monitoring “two terrorist cells, planning to carry out a series of terrorist attacks against vital installations and important figures in El Arish city,” according to an Interior Ministry statement.
The state-run Al Ahram agency said 10 suspected fighters were killed in the Obeidat district and another six were killed in the Abu Eita district of the city.
An undisclosed quantity of weapons, ammunition and explosives were found with the six in Abu Eita.
The two sides exchanged gunfire, it said without elaborating. It made no mention of any security forces casualties.
The suspected fighters’ bodies were taken to several hospitals in the city of Ismailia to be examined and identified, security and medical sources said.
Ongoing armed campaign in Sinai
The Sinai Peninsula has remained the epicentre of an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) offensive since 2013, when elected president Mohamed Morsi was overthrown in a military coup.
In February 2018, security forces launched a major operation against the local affiliate of ISIL, which has been mainly focused on volatile North Sinai province but has also targeted cells elsewhere in the country.
Egypt has often announced the killing of fighters during Operation Sinai 2018, but statements on significant losses by the security force have been rare.
On Saturday, the army reported that an attack on a checkpoint in North Sinai left 15 soldiers dead or wounded and seven of the suspected assailants killed.
Amnesty International has criticised the Egyptian army for using banned cluster bombs in their air raids on the area, describing them as the “vilest weapons in modern warfare … capable of killing and maiming civilians for years after their deployment”.