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Egypt forces kill 14 militants in wake of bloody Sinai massacre

The file photo shows Egyptian army forces patrolling a street in the North Sinai border town of Rafah. (AFP)

Egyptian security forces have killed at least 14 militants in two separate operations in the wake of the massacre at a mosque in the northern part of the restive Sinai Peninsula last week that killed over 300 people.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Egypt’s Interior Ministry said that security forces killed at least 11 "terrorist elements" during a raid on a suspected militant hideout in the Sinai-bordering province of Ismailia. The area was being used by militants to train and store weapons and logistical equipment for attacks in North Sinai.

Police also arrested six suspected militants and three people thought to have smuggled communications equipment to them.

Security forces were able to identify "a group of these elements and the hideouts they were using to hide, train, and store means of logistic support ahead of smuggling them to terrorist groups in North Sinai," the statement said, adding that weapons, ammunition and communication devices were recovered during the operation.

Police were pursuing the leaders of "terrorist groups in North Sinai that aimed to carry out a series of hostile operations targeting important and vital buildings and Christian churches," the statement said.

Separately, Colonel Tamer el-Rifai, a military spokesman, said three suspected militants were killed in central Sinai. The spokesman did not provide any further details.

The Friday attack on the mosque was the deadliest assault by extremists in Egypt’s recent history. The dead included 27 children and another 128 people were wounded.

Thousands of students on Monday staged a protest in Sinai Peninsula to condemn the terrorist attack.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but it had the hallmarks of the Daesh-affiliated Velayat Sinai terrorist group.  

Over the past few years, militants have been carrying out anti-government activities and fatal attacks, taking advantage of the turmoil in Egypt that erupted after the country's first democratically-elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was ousted in a military coup in July 2013.

Velayat Sinai has claimed responsibility for most of the assaults. The group later expanded its attacks to target members of Egypt’s Coptic Christian community as well as foreigners visiting the country. That has prompted the government to impose a state of emergency and widen a controversial crackdown which critics say has mostly targeted dissidents.

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