Egypt says 18 suspected armed fighters killed in Sinai firefight

Security forces find automatic weapons, explosive belts and devices in armed men’s possession, says Cairo.

Military forces are seen in North Sinai
Incident follows ISIL's claim of responsibility for an explosion in North Sinai on Thursday that killed 10 soldiers [File: Mohamed Abd el-Ghany/Reuters]

Egypt’s interior ministry has said 18 suspected armed group members were killed in North Sinai in a firefight with security forces, two days after a deadly blast claimed by the ISIL (ISIS) armed group.

“National security received intelligence about terrorist elements hiding out in a home in Bir al-Abed, where they were planning to launch hostile operations,” the ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

“Their hideout was targeted and a firefight ensued, which led to the death of 18 [fighters].”

Security forces found 13 automatic weapons, two explosive belts and three other explosive devices in their possession, the ministry said.

The incident came after Egypt’s army said on Thursday that 10 soldiers, including an officer, had been killed or wounded in an explosion targeting an armoured vehicle near Bir al-Abed in North Sinai.

The ISIL claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement posted on its propaganda channels.

The army on Friday killed two suspected armed group members in North Sinai province, spokesman Tamer al-Rifai said.

On Sunday, the army released a video outlining its latest counterterrorism operations in the Sinai Peninsula, in which it said 126 suspected armed men had been killed in 22 raids, while 15 military personnel had been killed or wounded.

The army added that 228 “hideouts used by terrorist elements” had been destroyed and 266 “criminal elements” arrested.

Security forces have been battling a long-running armed uprising in the area, spearheaded by a local ISIL affiliate.

The fighting intensified after the military’s 2013 removal of President Mohamed Morsi.

In February 2018, security forces launched a nationwide operation against armed groups, focused on North Sinai. 

More than 925 suspected armed fighters have been killed in the region along with dozens of security personnel, according to official figures.

Source: AFP