CAIRO: Three soldiers and 46 “very dangerous” militants have been killed in clashes in the northern and central Sinai peninsula, Egyptian authorities said on Monday.
The military also said Egyptian forces had destroyed 15 hideouts and dismantled 204 explosive devices. Troops also found weapons caches, including explosives, in Sinai, the Western Desert and southern Egypt.
Several hundred militants have been killed since the Egyptian military launched a major campaign in February 2018 aimed at eliminating Daesh or related groups in Sinai, the army said.
The Sinai peninsula covers 60,000 square kilometers in northeast Egypt bordering the Gaza Strip and Israel, divided into two governorates.
The north is at the center of a long-running insurgency led by a local affiliate of Daesh known as Sinai Province. The group, formerly called Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, had links with Al-Qaeda before pledging allegiance to Daesh in 2014.
Militants have stepped up attacks on security forces and also targeted civilians, mainly Egypt’s minority Coptic Christians, killing hundreds of people.
“Since 2016, terrorist attacks in Egypt have primarily been carried out by the Daesh affiliates,” said Allison McManus of the Washington-based Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.
In response, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi ordered security forces to use “all brute force” to restore stability to Sinai. A year ago Egypt mobilized land, sea and air forces in a nationwide offensive called Sinai 2018.
The operations are focused on North Sinai but also cover parts of the Nile Delta region and the porous western border with Libya.
“Today, despite years of military campaigns of which Sinai 2018 is the most recent and most important, the terrorist threat remains in Egypt,” McManus said.