Egyptian police killed 13 extremists in a shootout in North Sinai, an interior ministry source said Tuesday (July 24th), as Cairo conducts an operation against the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" in the region.
The deadly exchange of gunfire erupted when police raided a house in the city of al-Arish after receiving information that "terrorist members were hiding out inside", the security official said.
Thirteen extremists were killed in the shootout, the source said, without reporting any police casualties.
"The operation is part of pre-emptive strikes by security forces to thwart terrorist plots to carry out attacks during celebrations of national events, especially July 23rd revolution celebrations," the Interior Ministry said.
Intelligence obtained by the National Security Agency and the Interior Ministry’s agencies indicated that a group of extremists were using a house under-construction in al-Yasmin village in al-Arish, as a hideout to plan for terror attacks.
The attacks were going "to target armed and police forces and some civilians for their collaboration with the security forces", the ministry said.
The extremists had "improvised explosive devices (IEDs), machine guns and large quantities of ammunition in their possession", it said.
The Egyptian army in February launched a sweeping push to rid the Sinai Peninsula of militants.
The military says that over 200 suspected extremists and at least 35 soldiers have been killed in Operation Sinai 2018.
Living conditions, security improve
Life has returned to normal in North Sinai province with the full resumption of services, officials said.
Basic commodities are available and delivered to the province without delay, said Jamal al-Sharqawi, head of the General Company for Wholesale Trade, a holding company with the Ministry of Supplies and Internal Trade.
"We are meeting the province’s needs of all commodities and products on a daily basis in co-ordination with the armed forces and North Sinai province authorities," he said Tuesday as he launched the 26th convoy carrying food, meat, and chicken to North Sinai.
The armed forces have achieved "a strong and tangible success" as part of Operation Sinai 2018, said military and strategic expert Maj. Gen. Nasr Salem.
"This has been clearly reflected in the considerable drop in the number of terrorist operations both inside and outside Sinai," he told Al-Mashareq.
The extremist groups’ ability to target fixed and mobile security and military checkpoints has been degraded, he said, adding that this is a "major development".
"Some terrorists are still present in the far north-eastern part [of Sinai]," Salem said, but "eliminating them is a matter of time".
The armed and police forces have seized many explosives, landmines and bombs, and have hit the infrastructure that terrorist groups in Sinai use, he said.
"This will make it very difficult for terrorist groups to launch large-scale, quality operations," he added.