Egyptian military forces have killed 13 suspected militants in an attack on a farm hideout in a desert region west of the country, a week after a militant ambush on a police convoy killed dozens of officers.
Egypt’s Interior Ministry announced the development in a Friday statement but offered no details on the affiliation of the militants, although they had largely been battling terrorists linked to the Daesh Takfiri group in the area. Hundreds of the country’s security forces have been killed in battles in the northern Sinai Peninsula since 2013.
“They took a house in the farm as a temporary hideout faraway from security monitoring to receive newly recruited elements and train them and prepare the explosive devices,” read the official statement.
According to the statement, 13 bodies, some wearing militant uniforms, were recovered from the hideout following the raid along with weapons, explosive belts as well as cash and ammunition.
The ministry, however, did not mention whether the militants that came under attack were connected with those that ambushed Egyptian police forces last week in a remote area of Giza governorate, about 135 kilometers outside the capital Cairo, as officers were reportedly searching for a militant hideout.
State news agency MENA cited a senior security source earlier in the day as saying, “Security forces dealt a severe blow to the terrorist elements in revenge for the blood of the men who were martyred last week in the oasis.”
The latest fighting took place in an area near the Assuit-Kharga desert highway, about 400 kilometers southwest of Cairo, in New Valley province, which shares a long border with neighboring Libya. Southern Libya has emerged as a major hideout for militant brigades taking advantage of the security vacuum in the North African county.
Egypt remains in shock following last week’s ambush on security forces. While authorities said 16 police officers were killed in the attack, security sources have put the death toll at over 50. The confusion surrounding the incident and how it unfolded has sparked widespread criticism among the public. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the deadly incident. It is the latest to rock Egypt since the overthrow of the country’s first democratically-elected president, Mohammed Morsi, in 2013, a coup many say was orchestrated by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who was the army chief at the time.
Sisi announced during a meeting on Sunday with the country’s top security officials, including defense and interior ministry representatives, that his government would do its best to secure Egypt’s borders and hunt down militants.
Most of Egypt’s violence has been centered in northern Sinai, where a local group, Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, pledged allegiance to Daesh in 2014. It had mostly targeted security forces with ambushes and bombings, but has spread to other areas of Egypt outside the peninsula.