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Egypt destroys arms convoy crossing from Libya

Egyptian soldiers stand guard in northern Sinai in this file photo. (Reuters)
CAIRO: Egypt’s Air Force foiled an attempt to smuggle weapons, ammunition and explosives into the country across its borders with Libya, a military statement said Monday.
The Egyptian military managed to destroy eight vehicles loaded with ammunition and killed militants in the western desert, it added.
The Egyptian Air Force had been carrying out raids and operations for the past six years across its 1,150-km border with Libya to combat the smuggling of weapons.
But Monday’s air raids came a few days after Egyptian authorities announced that at least 16 policemen were killed in a brazen ambush by militants in the Al-Wahat Al-Bahriya area, about 135 km southwest of Cairo. A previous series of attacks in the same area was blamed on militants pouring in from Libya.
The Egyptian Army’s statement said Monday’s operation was part of raids and search operations along the border with Libya to track the terrorists involved in the Friday clash in Al-Wahat Al-Bahriya.
Libya has been a hotspot for arms smuggling since the fall of the regime of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
Security analyst Nabil Sharafdin told Arab News Egypt’s military has been fighting an insurgency across the Libyan border for years now, but it remains challenging for Egypt to maintain border security with Libya.
“In the absence of a central government in Libya, securing Egypt’s western borders will continue to be challenging, thus making our borders with Libya far more dangerous than our Sinai borders with Israel and Gaza,” he noted.
“The timing of this air force operation could be intended to assure the Egyptian public that the situation is under control after Friday’s hideous attack against our police forces,” he said.
In the same vein, Middle East expert Paul J. Sullivan told Arab News: “The Egyptian-Libyan border is much longer and more porous than the one with Gaza. Dangerous groups in Libya are potentially far deadlier and there are still weapons caches from Qaddafi’s times.
“The Libyan border can be monitored better with sensors, drones, aircraft, ground vehicles and AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) planes. However, the insecurity and fluidity of the Libyan side of the border make this far more complex and difficult to handle than any other borders.”
Military raid
Military spokesman Col. Tamer El-Rifai said on Monday that the military killed six suspected militants in a raid in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula. The military seized weapons and ammunition, the Associated Press quoted him as saying.

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