An Egyptian militant group has dismissed claims that its top leader was killed days earlier in the volatile Sinai Peninsula, near the Israeli border.
Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, or Supporters of Jerusalem, which has claimed most of the deadly attacks rocking Egypt in recent months, denied in an online statement on Sunday that Shadi El-Menei had been killed along with five other fighters in a Thursday shootout.
"They announce the killing of the jihadist brother Shadi El-Menei and that he is the head of the group, but he was not killed and is not the group's head," the statement said.
Local media reports quoted security forces as saying that El-Manei was killed on Thursday. A statement by the official military spokesman said six "dangerous criminal element" were killed in a military operation but did not identify them by name. It was not immediately clear if the statement was about the same attack.
Egypt has poured troops and weapons into the peninsula to combat a growing insurgency targeting police and troops since the overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last July.
The army says its air and ground offensives have killed dozens of militant fighters, and that hundreds of others have been arrested and numerous militant hideouts and arms caches have been destroyed.
In its statement, the group rebuffed the reports, saying the army announces "great fake victories" while it is incurring the "biggest losses" of troops. It claims that military operations in the border region have killed no more than ten of its members.
Approximately 500 police and soldiers have been been killed in shootings and bombings since Morsi's removal, according to a government tally.