Egypt airstrikes kill 23 militants in Sinai

Egypt launched airstrikes on Islamist militant targets in the Sinai peninsula on Thursday, killing 23 fighters

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Egypt launched airstrikes on Islamist militant targets in the Sinai peninsula on Thursday, killing 23 fighters a day after the deadliest clashes in the region in years, Reuters reported security sources as saying.

The sources said those killed had taken part in Wednesday’s fighting in which 100 militants and 17 soldiers, including four officers, were killed, according to the army spokesman.

Sinai-based insurgents, affiliates of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), have stepped up attacks on soldiers and police since then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi toppled Islamist President Mohammed Mursi in 2013 after mass protests against his rule.

Sisi, now Egypt’s elected president, says the pro-ISIS group Sinai Province, and other militant factions, pose an existential threat to Egypt, other Arab states and the West.

In the latest attacks against Egyptian security forces, officials said gunmen shot and killed a security guard in front of a bank in Fayoum, 80 kilometers (50 miles) southwest of Cairo.

It was not immediately clear if Thursday’s shooting was a criminal or militant attack. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media.

This week has been especially troubling for Egypt, a strategic U.S. ally which has a peace treaty with Israel and controls the Suez Canal, a vital global shipping lane.

The militants’ assault, a significant escalation in violence in the peninsula between Israel, the Gaza Strip and the Suez Canal, was the second major attack in Egypt this week.

On Monday, a car bomb killed the prosecutor-general in Cairo, the highest-profile official to die since the insurgency began.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s military spokesman said Wednesday that the situation in North Sinai was back in control.

Mohamed Sanir, who was speaking by phone to state television, said that the northern part of the peninsula was “100 percent under control.”

Sanir’s statements came shortly after the ISIS-linked militant group struck Egyptian army outposts in Sinai.

Wednesday’s fighting on more than 15 security sites was the deadliest in decades.

It followed the assassination of Egypt’s chief prosecutor and a vow by President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi to step up the legal battle against Islamic militants.

(With Reuters and Associated Press)

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