Egypt says security forces kill 18 militants in Sinai

Egypt says its police forces have killed 18 militants in a raid in the restive northern part of the Sinai Peninsula

CAIRO -- Egyptian police forces killed 18 militants in a raid on the restive northern part of the Sinai Peninsula, the Interior Ministry said Sunday.

The ministry said security forces exchanged fire with Islamic militants as they stormed a hideout in the small Sinai town of Bir al-Abed.

No casualties were reported among the police. The ministry, which did not say when the raid took place, said police found weapons, three explosive devices and two explosives belts.

The details could not be independently corroborated as Egyptian authorities heavily restrict access to that part of Sinai.

On Thursday, an explosion hit a military armored convoy causing at least 10 casualties among Egyptian soldiers who were participating in a campaign against an Islamic insurgency in the volatile region.

The military spokesman, Tamer el-Refai, did not specify the number of soldiers killed by the improvised explosive device. But other officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said 10 soldiers died, including an officer, and three others suffered shrapnel wounds.

An affiliate of the Islamic State group based in northern Sinai claimed responsibility for Thursday’s attack, which took place during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, after sundown when the faithful break their daily fast.

El-Refai said Friday that the military killed two militants who were hiding in a farm in northern Sinai.

Egypt has been battling militants in the northern part of Sinai Peninsula for years, but the insurgency became far more deadly after the 2013 military ouster of Mohammed Morsi, an elected but divisive Islamist president amid nationwide protests against his brief rule.

An Islamic State affiliate based in the Sinai has carried out high-profile attacks in recent years, mainly targeting security forces and Egypt’s Christian minority.