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Egyptian army intensifies attacks on Sinai insurgents - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A picture taken on August 8, 2012 shows members of the Egyptian security forces taking position during an operation in the northern Sinai peninsula. (AFP PHOTO/STR)

A picture taken on August 8, 2012 shows members of the Egyptian security forces taking position during an operation in the northern Sinai peninsula. (AFP PHOTO/STR)

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Egyptian security forces launched intensive air strikes against insurgents in Sinai on Saturday and Sunday morning, while security sources said explosives experts have deactivated five bombs which were prepared to detonate in the Suez and Giza governorates, two days after the attempt to assassinate Minister of the Interior Mohamed Ibrahim.

The Egyptian army launched security raids in an area south of Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah in northern Sinai. A military source said “the army was carrying out operations of a massive scale” to confront what he called “criminal elements and cells in northern Sinai,” adding that “a number of jihadist hideouts were bombed in the Moqataa, Dhuhair, Touma and Joura areas, resulting in deaths and injuries to 30 terrorists, and the arrest of dozens.”

The source told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the aim of the raids is to achieve security and stability by clearing armed insurgents’ cells,” adding that “the moves come under a campaign that aims to pursue armed elements in an area between Rafah and Arish who are wanted by security forces for involvement in violent acts against the army and police in Sinai in the last two months.”

The military source added that “the operation on Saturday is different to previous operations in that it involves an incursion by land forces supported by mechanized infantry and air cover provided by Apache helicopters in a number of areas simultaneously.”

Army and police teams yesterday morning started an intensive operation in Moqataa, Dhuhair and Quraiaa, in which they used tanks, armored vehicles and Apache helicopters, which “bombed selected targets.” Eyewitnesses said “Apache helicopters were flying over the Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah areas,” and that “the area has witnessed a lot of tension after the army surrounded Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid and stopped people going in or out.” Tighter security on all checkpoints in the area near Gaza was also imposed.

The new operations in Sinai come two days after the attempted assassination of the interior minister, and following attacks on army and police forces in Sinai and other areas over the last few weeks.

On Saturday, police deactivated three bombs attached to a railway line between Suez and Ismailiah following information received from local residents. A security source said “the first of the three bombs was a mortar, the second was an anti-tank bomb, and the third was an artillery bomb. All were prepared to detonate when the Suez–Ismailiah train, normally carrying around 2,000 civilians and soldiers, went by.”

Security forces also deactivated two bombs in the Giza governorate. Eye witnesses said “the two bombs were found in a black bag near a mosque, and the person who found them thought the bag was full of garbage.”

One bomb did explode at a police station in Boulaq Dakrour in Giza, causing no injuries.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, the head of the Egyptian 3rd Army, General Osama Askar, said that his troops had seized ten Russian-made man portable surface-to-air missiles from militant hideouts in the raids in the town of Sheikh Zuweid, near the border with the Gaza Strip.