Egypt’s military said on Sunday it had killed 16 “extremely dangerous and armed takfiris” in Sinai since Wednesday as part of the ongoing Operation Sinai 2018 counter-terrorism effort.
In an official statement, the 15th since the comprehensive operation was launched more than a month ago, Egypt’s armed forces spokesman Tamer El-Refaie said four takfiris had been killed and three leaders arrested in mountainous areas in Central Sinai, based on intelligence provided by the “honorable citizens of Sinai”.
Another 12 armed takfiri militants were killed during a shootout as armed-forces units conducted raids in Sinai, with the takfiris found in possession of weapons and satellite communication devices.
The Arabic word "takfiri" refers to extremist Sunni Muslims who accuse other Muslims of being infidels, often as a justification for using violence against them.
According to El-Refaie's statement, a non-commissioned officer and a private soldier from the army were killed in the gunfire, with one officer, a non-commissioned officer and four private soldiers injured.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian air force destroyed nine targets used by terrorist elements, including a hideout, a water tanker and three booby-trapped 4x4 vehicles.
An underground cache of weapons was found by the armed forces in raids in Rafah, including 34 BM-21 “Grad" rocket launchers, Kornet anti-tank guided missiles, and four shoulder-launched anti-tank RPGs.
Highly explosive C4 and TNT material was also found by armed-forces units, who destroyed a storehouse used to manufacture improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in North Sinai’s Sheikh Zuweid, with around 130 explosive devices discovered.
Trenches filled with weaponry, ammunition and military uniforms were also destroyed.
Military engineers detected and destroyed a tunnel opening inside one of the houses located along Egypt's border, also detonating and neutralizing 83 explosive devices that were planted to target troops in the area, and confiscating books that assert the takfiri ideology.
Also destroyed were 285 hideouts in North and Central Sinai containing ammunition, IEDs, books, satellite communications, and a media centre. Six cars and 32 unlicensed motorcycles, some of them hidden underground, were likewise destroyed.
More than 4,680 kilograms of ready-to-sell narcotics were also seized after the armed forces discovered and destroyed six farms growing marijuana and opium poppies.
The navy, in cooperation with the interior ministry, seized a commercial ship in the vicinity of Alexandria Port carrying around 3.5 tonnes of cannabis.
The army said its border guards, in cooperation with air-force units, destroyed five 4x4 vehicles as they attempted to infiltrate into Egyptian through the Western Desert.
In addition, the statement said, combined military and police units continued to secure and protect public and private property, manning 610 security checkpoints nationwide, and arresting a number of suspects and wanted criminals.
The military has also been working with the supply ministry to provide food convoys in Sinai, as well as opening a number of outlets selling food at low prices, continuing the state's efforts to support the people of North and Central Sinai.
Operation Sinai 2018 was launched “to implement the plan of comprehensive confrontation of terrorist and criminal elements and organisations in North and Central Sinai, and in other areas in the Nile Delta and desert areas west of the Nile Valley,” according to the armed forces.
In a press conference on Thursday, El-Refai said that 105 takfiris and 16 army personnel have been killed since the anti-terrorism operation started on 9 February.