Egypt military says it killed 16 jihadists in Sinai

Egyptian Forces. AFP file

A military spokesman said the operation would cover large parts of Sinai, but also parts of the Nile delta and the Western Desert, where other militants have waged attacks, some believed to be staged out of neighbouring Libya.

"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.

The security operation launched on Friday involves troops from the Egyptian air force, navy and army as well as the police and border guards.

They added that the dead bodies of the 10 militants have been moved to a hospital in nearby Ismailia province.

"The Salafi Call, like all the Egyptian people, stands behind its army in its war on terrorism, and prays to God to help it [the military] prevent [terrorists] from corrupting the land", the group said in a statement late on Saturday. The Sinai borders Israel and the Gaza Strip and has always been a bastion for Islamic insurgent groups tied to al-Qaida.

Islamist insurgents have been targeting security forces since 2013 when the army, then led by Sisi as army chief, ousted President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood following mass protests against his rule.

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

The former general had ordered the military in November to defeat militants in northern Sinai within three months, after an attack on a mosque killed more than 300 people, the deadliest such incident in the Arab world's most populous country.

The head of the IS religious police in Sinai had previously said that Sufis who did not "repent" would be killed.

The offensive comes ahead a March vote that will undoubtedly see Mr El Sisi win a second four-year term.

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