World News

Egypt kills 12 militants in Sinai air strike, three in Alexandria raid

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian jets bombed a gathering site of Sinai-based Islamist militants, killing 12 and destroying several four-wheel drive vehicles, the military said on Tuesday.

An Islamist insurgency in the rugged, thinly populated Sinai Peninsula has gained pace since the military overthrew President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s oldest Islamist movement, in 2013 after mass protests against his rule.

The air strikes “resulted in the killing of 12 highly dangerous ... leaders of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis”, the military said in a statement. It did not say when the aerial bombing took place.

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, Egypt’s most active militant group, swore allegiance to Islamic State in 2014 and adopted the name Sinai Province.

It is blamed for the killing of hundreds of soldiers and policemen in attacks since then. The group has turned its guns on Egyptian Christians in recent months, killing around 100 in bombings at Coptic churches.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi carried out air strikes on militants in Libya in response to a deadly attack on Coptic Christians last month that left at least 29 dead.

Egypt’s military says it has killed thousands of militants in operations in Sinai. Residents of Sinai say the high death rates include civilians.

Three other militants were killed on Tuesday in Egypt’s second city Alexandria.

Police raided an apartment in the Mediterranean coastal city based on intelligence that wanted members of the Hasam militant group were hiding there, the Interior Ministry said.

Police attempted to arrest the militants, the ministry said in a statement, but they shot at the force leading to a firefight. All three were killed.

Hasam, a recently emerged group which is active in Cairo and other cities and is separate from Islamic State, claimed responsibility for a roadside bomb that killed a policeman on Sunday.

Egypt says Hasam is the armed wing of the Muslim Brotherhood but the Brotherhood, the world’s oldest Islamist movement, denies any connection to Hasam and says it is peaceful.

Reporting by Ahmed Tolba and Haitham Ahmed,; Writing by Amina Ismail and Ahmed Aboulenein, editing by Ed Osmond