Sources: Egypt army hits Sinai militants, at least 31 killed, injured

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At least 31 people were killed or injured on Saturday when the Egyptian army mounted a large operation against militants in North Sinai, Reuters reported security officials as saying.

Dozens of armored vehicles backed by helicopters took part in the operation near Sheikh Zuweid, a few kilometers from the Gaza Strip.

According to Reuters, 15 people were detained in the operation.

Residents, who witnessed winding columns of trucks and armored vehicles pour into the area, said the operation was one of the largest to be held in the area in years, the Associated Press reported.

“This is by far the largest operation we have seen and the one we have been waiting for,” the Associated Press quoted Sheikh Hassan Khalaf, a tribal leader from al-Joura, one of 12 targeted villages in the area, as saying.

“Starting today, you will not hear of attacks on army or police checkpoints as before. They either have to flee or get arrested,” he added.

The Sinai offensive comes after a failed suicide bombing targeting the country’s top policeman in Cairo, an assassination attempt against a minister and attacks on security forces and a ship.

North Sinai, which adjoins Israel and the Gaza Strip, has long been a haven for militants, including al-Qaeda-inspired groups. Attacks have spiked in the area since President Mohammad Mursi’s July 3 ouster, prompting the latest army offensive.

Mursi is now facing a new four-day detention order on charges of insulting the country’s judiciary, state media reported on Saturday.

The prosecutor issued a new detention order for Mursi over his comments that judges had rigged the 2005 parliamentary election.

Meanwhile, Egyptian soldiers discovered explosives planted on a railway line on Saturday, the state news agency reported. Mortars were among the munitions found on the line between the cities of Suez and Ismailia, MENA news agency said, adding that the explosives were defused by experts.

(With Reuters and the Associated Press)

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