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71 militants killed, 5 arrested during Egypt’s operation in Sinai

Egyptians carry the coffin of a soldier that was killed a day earlier in the restive Sinai Peninsula in an attack by the Daesh group, during a funeral ceremony in 10th of Ramadan city, about 60 kilometers north of Cairo, on July 8, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Egypt has released the details of a massive military operation in the restive northwestern Sinai peninsula, saying 71 militants have been killed since the start of the offensive on February 9.

Military spokesman Colonel Tamer Rifai said during a press conference on Thursday that seven members of the Egyptian security forces had also been killed in the operation, meant to root out militancy in Sinai.

“Seventy-one extremists have been killed and five arrested,” said Rifai, adding, “As a result of the heroic combat operations by our armed forces ... seven heroes of the armed forces were martyred.”

The official further noted that around 2,000 people had been rounded up in the operation, which came after an ultimatum by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to end deadly terrorist attacks in Egypt.

Sinai has been the hotbed of militancy in Egypt since a coup led by Sisi ousted former president Mohamed Morsi in the summer of 2013. Sisi came to power a year later only to see attacks that had normally targeted security forces in Sinai expanded to the mainland Egypt to affect civilians.

This handout picture released by the Egyptian Presidency on February 19, 2018, shows Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi giving a speech during his visit to the Military Academy in Cairo. (Photo by AFP)

A branch of Daesh, a Takfiri terrorist group that is on its last legs in Iraq and Syria, where it was most active, has been behind many attacks in Sinai and elsewhere. The group was blamed for an attack at a northern Sinai mosque in November that killed more than 300 worshippers.

Many blame Sisi’s tough crackdown on dissent for the protracted violence in Egypt. Under the former army chief, the Egyptian judiciary has jailed tens of thousands of activists, many of them members or sympathizers of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, a political party from which Morsi and members of his cabinet had hailed.

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