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Egypt army arrests head of Sinai radical militant group, dozens others

Army spokesperson says troops also destroyed three smuggling tunnels in the restive peninsula

Ahram Online, Friday 1 Nov 2013
army sinai
Egyptian Army soldiers patrol in an armored vehicle backed by a helicopter gunship during a sweep through villages in Sheikh Zuweyid, North Sinai (Photo: Reuters)
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Egypt army said on Friday its forces were able to capture 36 "terrorists" in North Sinai, including leader of radical Islamisrt group Al-Takfir Wal Hijra and one of his associates. 
 
Military spokesman Colonel Ahmed Ali said in a statement on his official Facebook page that the army captured Abd El-Fattah Salem in Al-Kharouba area describing him as "one of the most significant terrorist leaders currently wanted." 
 
Al-Takfir Wal Hijra, "Excommunication and Exodus", is one of the initial militant jihadist groups that emerged in Egypt in the 1960's founded by Shukri Mostafa. 
 
Meanwhile, the army also said it arrested 25 "extremists" accused of attacking army and police sites in the restive peninsula, in addition to eight people suspected of involvement in terrorism crimes.
 
Earlier on Friday, forces arrested one person and took possession of ammunition found with him. 
 
Ali also said that the army destroyed three underground tunnels used for smuggling people and goods.
 
The army has recently destroyed tens of tunnels that connected Sinai to the Palestinian Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip which has been under Israeli blockade since 2007. 
 
In addition, Egyptian forces have been stricter on opening the Rafah border, Gaza's only outdoor to the world since president Mohamed Morsi was ousted on 3 July.
 
Egypt has accused Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood from which Morsi hails, of adding to the turmoil in Sinai. Hamas has denied these accusations.  
 
Attacks on security sites have soared after the army deposed Morsi in July amid mass protests against him. Dozens of security forces were killed in such attacks.  In response, the army launched an "anti-terrorism" operation in Sinai, killing dozens of militants and arresting hundreds. 
 
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