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Egypt begins massive security operation targeting militants

Comprehensive Operation- Sinai 2018

Egypt launched a major security operation named "Sinai 2018" involving the army and police against "terrorist and criminal elements and organizations" across the country, mainly in Sinai, as part of the army's long standing crack down on the jihadist insurgency escalated since the ousting of ex-Muslim brotherhood-affiliated president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

The military operation is meant to cover large parts of the Sinai peninsula, as well as parts of the Delta and the Western Desert, the military spokesman said.

The Egyptian army on Friday announced the launch of a major operation against jihadists across swathes of territory including the Sinai Peninsula, where it has been fighting an Islamic State (ISIS) insurgency for several years, AFP reported.

"The armed forces calls upon the Egyptian people in all parts of the country to closely cooperate with law enforcement forces to confront terrorism, uproot it and immediately report any elements threatening the security and stability of the country", the spokesman, Colonel Tamer al-Rifai, said in a televised address.

In a subsequent statement, Rifaai said the air force carried out airstrikes on militant hideouts in north and central Sinai.

In recent months, dozens have been killed in gunfire exchange between Egyptian security forces and suspected militants.Egypt's Interior Ministry announced that the national alert level had been raised to "maximum security" in all governorates.

Egyptian army in Operation Sinai 2018
Egyptian army in Operation Sinai 2018

Officials are also strengthening maritime and land borders to help cut off supply lines for terrorist activity.

Security sources and eyewitnesses confirmed that the operation was under way in the Nile Delta and North Sinai province. They added that militants are also being targeted south and west of the town of Rafah, on the border with the Gaza strip. The insurgency, nevertheless, has shown no signs of abating.

In November, militants killed 311 worshippers in a mosque attack in the region, the deadliest in Egypt's modern history.

Later, militants fired a projectile at el-Arish airport and struck an Apache helicopter that was part of the entourage of Egypt's defense and interior ministers who were in the city on an unannounced visit on December 19.

Egypt also built a buffer zone along the border with Gaza to curb the flow of militants and weapons through a vast tunnel network under the border. Egypt is now building a buffer zone around the airport.

In 2014, following a suicide bombing that killed 33 soldiers, current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi declared a state of emergency in the peninsula, describing it as a "nesting ground for terrorism and terrorists".