Egypt's army has dealt a massive blow against terrorist groups in North Sinai, killing 126 militants and destroying hundreds of their hideouts and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the Egyptian Armed Forces said Sunday (May 3rd).
The series of anti-terrorism operations came days after 10 soldiers, including an officer, were killed and wounded in an IED attack targeting their armoured vehicle in Bir al-Abed, North Sinai, on April 30th.
The "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack, in a statement posted on its propaganda channels.
The following day, the army killed two suspected militants in North Sinai, spokesman Tamer al-Rifaie said.
The army released a video Sunday outlining its latest counter-terrorism operations in the Sinai Peninsula, in which it said 126 suspected militants had been killed in 22 raids and 16 high-level operations, 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.
The militants were killed as part of a joint police-army security plan "to track down and crush the terrorist elements in Sinai and destroy their infrastructure", the General Command of Armed Forces said in a statement Sunday evening.
The joint forces also discovered and destroyed "630 IEDs planted to target our forces during their movements in the area of operations, together with eight tunnel openings", it said.
In one of the raids early Sunday morning, 18 suspected militants were killed in a firefight with security forces in North Sinai, the Interior Ministry said.
"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.
"Their hideout was targeted and a firefight ensued, which led to the death of 18 [militants]."
"Thirteen automatic rifles, three IEDs set for detonation and two explosive vests were found," it said.
'Integrated security plan'
The operations carried out by the army and police forces are based on integrated, swift intelligence targeting extremist groups, said Maj. Gen. Hesham al-Halabi, an advisor to Nasser Military Academy in Giza.
"The security agencies were able to penetrate those groups in recent years and acquire highly advanced expertise in collecting intelligence on their activities and movements and their recruitment of new elements," he told Al-Mashareq.
According to the armed forces' statement, he said, those groups still possess major resources that are being tracked by the security agencies so more pre-emptive strikes can be launched.
"Combating terrorism in Sinai is part of an integrated security and military plan carried out by the armed forces, not just in Sinai, but also along all strategic points in Egypt, whether on the eastern, western or southern borders, to drain the sources of terrorism," al-Halabi said.