10 militants killed in Egypt air raids

Cairo, Feb 20: At least 10 militants were killed in Egyptian government air raids on their hideouts in Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid cities in North Sinai governorate that continued from Wednesday evening until early Thursday, according to a security forces source.

“The toll may increase as dozens were seriously injured during the raids,” the source told Xinhua, adding that four military planes also destroyed a number of vehicles carrying machine guns used by militants.

The raids are part of a massive military campaign against the militants whose attacks have recently mounted in the peninsula.

Earlier Wednesday, the military killed six gunmen and arrested 10 suspects at Al-Toma and Al-Fitat villages in Sheikh Zuweid city, destroying four vast olive farms used by militants as post-attack hiding places.

On Monday, similar military operations killed five Islamist hardliners while three others were arrested at Sheikh Zuweid, Rafah and Bi’r al-Abd cities in North Sinai.

Since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi by the military in early July, furious Islamist militants took the Sinai peninsula as a stronghold for their attacks against security personnel and buildings. The Al Qaeda-inspired, Sinai-based Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis group claimed responsibility for most of these attacks.

The group also claimed responsibility for Sunday’s tourist bus blast that killed three South Koreans and the Egyptian bus drivers and injured 13 others in Taba town in South Sinai.

It was the first deadly attack on tourists in Egypt since July 2005, when a spree of bombings killed 88 Egyptians and foreigners in South Sinai’s resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh.

In a recent online statement, the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis warned tourists in Egypt to leave the country, threatening to attack any foreigner who would remain after Feb 20.