Egyptian forces on Tuesday (July 21st) killed 18 extremists in aerial and ground operations in North Sinai after thwarting an attack on a security complex in the town of Bir al-Abed, the army said in a statement.
The incident began when army forces thwarted an attack on a Bir al-Abed security complex, the statement said.
The army pursued the perpetrators, in co-operation with the air force, and besieged them at a farm and some abandoned houses.
Security forces killed 18 extremists, the army said, including one who was wearing an explosives vest. They also destroyed four vehicles, including three that were packed with explosives.
Two soldiers were killed "as they performed their national duty", the statement said, and four were wounded.
Bir al-Abed, about 80 kilometres west of al-Arish, has been the site of several attacks claimed by the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS), including a 2017 attack on a mosque that was the deadliest in modern Egyptian history.
Egypt’s Grand Mufti Shawki Allam praised the role of the armed forces in combating extremist groups, and mourned the “martyrs” of the armed forces who lost their lives as they performed their duty.
They were killed as they fought to confront "extremist ideology which seeks to threaten the country’s stability", he said in a statement.
The Egyptian army's performance in Bir al-Abed shows “the level of readiness and preparedness of the armed forces in Sinai", Egyptian Centre for Strategic Studies director Brig. Gen. Khaled Okasha told Al-Mashareq.
The army met "the highest standards of counter-terrorism operations”, he said.
Moving quickly from repelling the attack to hunting down and killing the perpetrators "reflects a high level of competency in combat skills and intelligence gathering", he added.
Egypt is implementing a comprehensive counter-terrorism policy, said Maj. Gen. Khalid Qenawi, commander of Egypt’s 3rd Field Army, in a July 8th statement.
In addition to the military aspect, this policy includes "economic and cultural development and awareness-raising among young people", he said, noting that it "must be sustainable and real on the ground".
Qenawi stressed the importance of supporting civil society and the private sector in all developmental projects that aim to support families and youth in Suez, South and Central Sinai.