Army targets terrorist hotbeds in central and North Sinai

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Security forces have for years battled an Islamic State insurgency in North Sinai that has killed hundreds of soldiers and police.

The Egyptian army on Friday announced the launch of a major operation against jihadists across swathes of territory including the Sinai Peninsula, where it has been fighting an Islamic State (ISIS) insurgency for several years, AFP reported.

In statement No. 2 on the comprehensive anti-terrorism operation, the spokesperson confirmed, "The Air Force is targeting hotbeds and dens of terrorist elements in the north and central Sinai", aired at 11:50 am Cairo local time.

Warplanes will bomb areas where jihadists are hiding while troops, tanks and armoured vehicles will be deployed on the ground, security sources said.

Officials are also strengthening maritime and land borders to help cut off supply lines for terrorist activity.

"The border guard forces and civilian police are also tightening security procedures at borders and on navigational courses".

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The military spokesman explained that the operation comes within the framework of directives issued by the president of the republic and the supreme commander of the Armed Forces to the general command of the Armed Forces and Interior Ministry to uproot terrorism and other criminal acts. Since then, the Wilayat Sinai, the ISIL branch in Egypt, has claimed responsibility for a number of deadly attacks in the area.

Abdel-Aal said that he is closely following the Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018, which aims to thwart all terrorist plots threatening the security of Egypt, the statement added.

Most of the violence has been in North Sinai province, but there have also been attacks on the military, police and even churches elsewhere, including Cairo.

In 2014, Sinai's indigenous terrorists pledged their allegiance to ISIL terrorist group.

Sisi in November ordered the armed forces to clear North Sinai of Islamist militants within three months after an attack on a mosque that killed 300 people. Shortly afterward, Sissi gave security forces a three-month deadline to restore stability to northern Sinai and authorized his chief of staff to use "all brute force".

Sisi, who is expected to easily win another four-year term next month after several potential challengers were either hobbled or dropped out, said on Facebook he was "proudly following the heroism" of the security forces.

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