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Egyptian police kill 17 militants in al-Arish raid

By Mohammed Mahmoud in Cairo

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Egyptian police secure a public facility in Egypt. [Photo courtesy of Egyptian Interior Ministry]

Egyptian police killed 17 militants during a shootout following a raid on their hideout in the North Sinai provincial capital of al-Arish, the interior ministry said Tuesday (February 11th).

The raid and ensuing exchange of fire came just two days after the army fought off a deadly attack on a security checkpoint in the province, where Egyptian forces have been battling the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS).

The pre-emptive operation "comes in the framework of efforts to crack down on terrorists involved in hostile operations targeting the armed forces and police", the ministry said in a statement.

"The operation was based on information received by the National Security Agency that a number of terrorists were hiding at a house in al-Obaidat, in the vicinity of al-Arish police station (3)," it said.

The militants had used the house "as a base out of which they launch their hostile operations", the statement said. "Their hideout was raided and a shootout took place."

Eleven militants were killed in the exchange of fire, while six others were killed after they fled to an abandoned house in the Hous district, Egypt's Ahram Online reported.

"Our forces seized six automatic rifles, two birdshot rifles, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and explosives vests," the ministry statement said.

Items seized during the raid confirm the militants had been planning subversive operations against the country's security and stability, said former Assistant Interior Minister Maj. Gen. Mohammed Sadeq.

"But the security forces acted fast, and foiled their plans," he said.

"Locating those terrorists can only be done using advanced reconnaissance equipment, as well as highly-trained forces," he noted.

"The police operations in Sinai are pre-emptive strikes against those terrorist groups before they could move to carry out their plans," Sadeq said.

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