Egypt kills 18 militants in foiled Sinai attack, army says

Two Egyptian military personnel died and four were wounded in an operation in the Sinai Peninsula July 21.

al-monitor A picture shows the Rawda mosque, west of the northern Sinai Peninsula capital of el-Arish, after a gun and bombing attack that killed at least 235 worshippers, Nov. 25, 2017. Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images.

Jul 23, 2020

Egyptian security forces killed 18 suspected militants in aerial and ground operations in the restive northern Sinai Peninsula on Tuesday, thwarting what the army described as a terrorist attack. 

Two military personnel died and four others were wounded when militants attacked an army post in the northern Sinai’s Bir al-Abed, a military spokesman said. In addition to killing 18 suspects, security forces destroyed seven vehicles that were used in the attack or carried explosives.

"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, using the term "takfiri" to refer to the militants. 

The town of Bir al-Abed was the site of the deadliest terror attack in modern Egyptian history. In November 2017, an Islamic State-claimed bombing at a crowded mosque left more than 300 dead. The worshippers were Sufi Muslims, whose mystical form of Islam the Sunni extremists find heretical.

A small, but active affiliate of IS has run a yearslong insurgency in Sinai, which borders the Gaza Strip and Israel. The group, known as Wilayat Sinai, has claimed 234 attacks on civilian and military targets in the past year.

Under Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, Egypt’s security forces have upped their campaign against insurgent groups, which has alienated much of the local population. In 2019, Human Rights Watch accused the military of systematic and widespread arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances and torture as part of its campaign against the Sinai-based insurgents. The government dismissed the report as “full of lies.” 

According to government figures, around 990 suspected militants have been killed in the operations, along with dozens of security personnel. 

This story contains reporting from AFP.

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