The Egyptian army announced on Friday (February 9th) the launch of a major operation to purge the country of terror groups in the Nile Delta and northern and central Sinai, AFP reported.
Police and troops have been put on "maximum alert" for the duration of Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018, the army said in a statement.
The goal is to tighten control of border districts and "clean up areas where there are terrorist hotbeds", it said.
The operation also aims to "inoculate Egyptian society against the evils of terrorism and extremism, and other crimes that affect security and stability", the army statement said.
The Egyptian Air Force on Friday morning targeted hotbeds, hideouts and weapons caches which "terrorist elements use as a base for targeting law enforcement forces and civilian targets in central and north Sinai", army spokesman Col. Tamer al-Refaei said in a statement issued two hours after Operation Sinai 2018 was announced.
"Naval Forces have tightened security measures on sea ports to cut the supply routes of the terrorist elements," he said, noting that the Border Guards and police forces have also beefed up security measures along land crossings.
"The military operation includes beefing up security measures at vital targets and all provinces by joint army-police forces," he said.
Religious institutions support campaign
Egypt's Al-Azhar announced on Friday afternoon its "full support" for Operation Sinai 2018, calling on all Egyptian people "to support the brave men of the army and police in their fight against terrorist and criminal elements", Egypt's Ahram Online reported.
In a statement, the country's top Islamic authority praised the sacrifices of the army and police in the fight against terrorism so "Egypt can be purged of these elements that have terrorised and killed citizens".
Al-Azhar also hailed the sacrifices of Sinai residents who "have endured suffering caused by the criminality of such terrorist groups".
Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, headed by Pope Tawadros II, also declared its solidarity and support for the "comprehensive battle" against terror groups in a Friday statement.
"History will record the sacrifices of Egypt's brave army and police who sacrifice their lives for the sake of the country's stability," the church statement said.
Thorough planning preceded operation
Hours after the Egyptian army launched the operation, the interior ministry said it killed three members of the banned Hasm group in a shootout in an under-construction residential building in Cairo.
"The military operation has long been under preparation," said military and strategic expert Maj. Gen. Nasr Salem.
The ongoing campaign has been prepared based on studies and reconnaissance intelligence that has been carefully collected over the past period, he told Al-Mashareq.
The comprehensive campaign targets many areas in addition to Sinai, in order to cut terror groups' supply routes and prevent them from targeting other areas in Egypt with the aim of distracting the armed forces, Salem said.
"The operation includes beefing up security measures along all border crossings to prevent the entry and exit of terrorists and cut their supply routes, in addition to securing the country's sea ports," he said.