World

Egypt reports major success in Sinai Peninsula terrorism crackdown

Major assault launched against IS in Egypt

The Egyptian Ministry of Defense said on February 9 it launched a military operation of unprecedented size to "crush terrorism" in the Sinai and secure points of entry into the country.

The colonel asserted that security forces were conducting "sweeping operations and large-scale raids on all cities and villages in the north and central Sinai", Efe news agency reported.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has ordered the military to defeat Islamists in the region by the end of this month.

Spokesman Col. Tamer el-Rifai said that airstrikes hit vehicles, weapons caches, communications centres and illegal opium fields in the sweep, which began on Friday and comes as a response to a pickup in extremist violence in Egypt.

Over two days, the Egyptian Armed Forces have killed 16 militants and arrested four others, said al-Rifai in a statement on Sunday. With North Sinai closed off for non-residents and journalists, the army's casualty figures could not be independently confirmed.

The operation, which targets "terrorist and criminal elements and organizations", involves land, naval and air forces from the army and police, and covers north and central Sinai, the Nile Delta and the Western Desert along the porous border with Libya.

Suspicion for that attack fell on an affiliate of the Islamic State (IS) group in Sinai and Mr Sisi authorised troops to use "all brute force" necessary to restore "security and stability" to the region within three months. Egypt has denied the report and the Israelis aren't commenting.

Islamist insurgents have been targeting security forces since 2013 when the army, then led by Sisi as army chief, ousted President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood following mass protests against his rule.

In November previous year, militants detonated a bomb inside a crowded mosque in the Sinai Peninsula and then sprayed gunfire on panicked worshippers as they fled, killing at least 305 people and wounding at least 128 others. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the mosque attack though. Locals said the mosque was popular among Sufis.