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Egyptian army says 16 militants killed in security operation

Sixteen militants were killed and four arrested in a major security operation, Egypt’s military said on Sunday, the first casualties in a campaign aimed at crushing insurgents behind a string of attacks.

Sixty-six targets, arms depots, SUVs and motor-bikes used by militants were destroyed in raids focused mainly in Sinai, but also covering the Nile Delta and the western desert, the army added in a statement carried on state TV.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is seeking re-election in March, ordered the armed forces in November to defeat militants 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.

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

“The air force targeted and destroyed 66 targets used by terrorist elements to hide from air and artillery attacks, and to escape from their bases during raids,” the statement said.

A total of 16 militants were killed, it said, but gave no further details.

Medical sources said Ismailia General Hospital early on Sunday received the bodies of 10 militants killed in Sinai and that DNA samples were taken to identify them.

The military statement also said forces involved in the operation found a media centre with computers, communication equipment and books and documents related to jihadi ideology.

Security forces also uncovered and destroyed six farms used to grow banned narcotics, the statement said.