Sixteen militants killed, 34 people arrested in major security operation: Egypt's military

Sixteen militants killed, 34 people arrested in major security operation: Egypt's military

Sixteen militants killed, 34 people arrested in major security operation: Egypt's military

"Elements of our air force targeted some of the outposts, weapons and ammunition stores used by terrorist elements as a base to target law enforcement forces and civilian targets in north and central Sinai", al-Refaei stated.

A major operation was launched on Friday with Egyptian ground, air and naval forces along with border guards and police on the hunt - possibly with the help of Israel.

The ministry also said it had arrested 14 alleged militants in operations spanning five provinces the Nile Delta in the north and two provinces in Upper Egypt in the south, while the army had previously announced operations were to take place in the western desert.

Egypt launched a nationwide counterterrorism operation on Friday to eliminate terrorism.

After a number of military offensives, the group is thought to have been weakened and switched from attacks on the military to softer targets such as mosques and Coptic Christian churches.

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Four militants and 30 suspects were arrested, it adds.

It also discovered and destroyed an explosives-making laboratory and a communications centre, as well as six cannabis and opium fields, he said.

Egypt's army has been struggling to uproot the strongholds of terrorists, now belonging to the Islamic State branch in Sinai, since the ouster of the Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi, in response to mass protests against his rule in 2013. The mission, announced Friday, is meant to target "terrorist and criminal elements and organizations" across Egypt.

Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El Sisi - who is seeking re-election next month - pledged in November to wipe out terrorist elements "within three months" after militants killed more than 300 people at a mosque in the village of Al Rawdah, in the troubled northern sector of the peninsula near Bir El Abd town.

The comprehensive anti-terror operation "Sinai 2018" comes weeks before Egypt starts its 2018 presidential elections scheduled for late March, where incumbent President Sisi is expected to make an easy win for a second term due to the lack of strong challengers in the race.

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