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Seven soldiers, 71 militants killed in Egypt Sinai operations

A view from the western Gaza strip border town of Rafah shows a smoke plume rising on the Egyptian side of the border following an explosion. Egypt closed its border with the Gaza Strip after Cairo launched a major operation against jihadists in the neighboring Sinai Peninsula. (AFP)
CAIRO: Seven Egyptian soldiers and 71 militants have been killed since the launch of a wide-ranging operation to quell an Daesh group affiliate in Sinai earlier this month, the military said.
“As a result of the heroic combat operations by our armed heroes of the armed forces were martyred,” military spokesman Col. Tamer Rifai said at a press conference aired Thursday on state television.
“71 extremists have been killed and five arrested,” he said.
Rifai added that 1,852 other suspects have been rounded up in the operation that began on February 9, following an ultimatum by the President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to end the deadly insurgency.
IS attacks have killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula. The group has also killed over 100 Christians in the past year and targeted tourists.
Sissi ordered his security commanders to put an end to the attacks following a massacre at a northern Sinai mosque in November that killed more than 300 worshippers.
IS is believed to have carried out the attack on the mosque, frequented by Sufi Muslims, but it has not claimed responsibility.
The group’s Egyptian branch has used the north of the Sinai Peninsula, which borders Israel, as a staging ground for its attacks.
Officials say IS has tried to move fighters to Sinai following defeats in Iraq and Syria, where it has lost most of its territory.
Egypt is holding a presidential election next month, which Sissi is expected to easily win.

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