(Adds military spokesman’s denial)
CAIRO, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Egyptian security forces shot dead 24 Islamic State militants in central Sinai, 70 km (40 miles) from the crash site of a Russian airliner the group says it brought down, security sources said on Monday.
They said security forces killed the militants as they hid inside a cave in a mountainous area and that they captured eight other militants. A military spokesman denied the incident took place, without elaborating. It was not immediately possible to resolve the contradiction.
Sinai Province, Islamic State’s Egypt branch, is active in North Sinai where two years ago it launched an insurgency and has since killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen. It is rarely active outside that area.
Western governments said it was likely that the Russian airliner that crashed in the Sinai on Oct. 31, killing all 224 people on board, was downed by a bomb and Islamic State has said it was responsible.
Egyptian authorities say the bomb theory is premature and that only the conclusion of an official investigation will shed light on what brought down the Airbus 321.
Sinai Province said in a statement on the day of the crash that it had downed the plane in response to Russian air strikes in Syria. (Reporting by Ahmed Mohamed Hassan; Writing by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Mark Heinrich)