Egyptian army forces involved in Operation Sinai 2018(Photo: Egypt's army spokesman)
Sixteen militants have been killed and four arrested in northern and central Sinai in a massive anti-terrorism operation waged by military and security forces, Egypt's army said on Sunday, in the first announcement of casualties since the campaign was launched two days ago.
Thirty other suspects have been captured and 66 targets, 4x4 vehicles, motorbikes and arms caches used by militants were destroyed in extensive raids in the border region, the military said in its statement.
Operation Sinai 2018 was launched on Friday morning, involving land, naval and air forces, as well as the police and border guards, targeting "terrorist and criminal elements and organizations" in northern and central Sinai, as well as parts of the Nile Delta and the Western Desert.
"The air force targeted and destroyed 66 targets used by terrorist elements to hide from air and artillery attacks, and to escape from their bases during raids," the statement said.
"Sixteen militants have been killed," it added.
Egypt has for years been battling an Islamist militancy based in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula that mainly targets security forces. The army said it has killed hundreds of militants in military operations there.
Sunday's statement said that security forces also uncovered and destroyed a media centre with computers, wireless communication equipment, books and documents related to jihadi ideology. In addition, six farms used to grow illegal narcotics were found and destroyed.
Naval units from a Mistral helicopter carrier have continued to comb the coast of Arish, the capital of North Sinai governorate, while police and coast guards intensified security measures and patrols, including in Egypt's southern desert and through mountainous paths along the southern and western borders, to "thwart any attempt to sneak through international borders."
In late November, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sis ordered the military to defeat terrorists in North Sinai within three months, a deadline that will expire at the end of February. He authorized chief of staff Mohamed Hegazy to use "brute force."