Egypt says officers fatally shot 16 gunmen, most of them fugitive militants
cairo — The death toll keeps rising in Egypt’s conflict with Islamist militants.
On Saturday, Egypt’s Interior Ministry said police officers had fatally shot 16 gunmen in two shootouts, adding that most of those killed were fugitive militants linked to recent attacks on security forces in the Northern Sinai Peninsula.
Egypt faces an Islamist insurgency led by the Islamic State group on the peninsula, where hundreds of soldiers and police have been killed since 2013.
At least 23 soldiers were killed Friday when suicide car bombs tore through two military checkpoints in the region in an attack claimed by the Islamic State. The assault was one of the bloodiest on security forces in years. The Islamic State posted a statement online late Friday saying it carried out the attack as the army was preparing to attack militant positions in the territory bordering Gaza and Israel.
In Saturday’s confrontation, the Interior Ministry said gunmen opened fire on police as they approached a desert training camp for militants in Ismailia, a city on the west bank of the Suez Canal.
The officers returned fire, killing 14 militants, five of whom have been identified so far.
The camp was used to subject recruits “to military training programs on the use of various types of firearms and manufacture explosive devices . . . ,” a ministry statement said.
In a separate statement, the ministry said its forces killed two men described as fugitive terrorists in an exchange of gunfire in the city of Giza, near Cairo.
The men, who were in an apartment, opened fire on security forces as soon as the officers approached to arrest them, it said.
The statement said the pair were members of a newly emerged militant group called Hasm, which claimed responsibility for the killing of a homeland security officer outside his home in Qalyubia, a province just north of Cairo, while on his way to prayers on Friday.
Hasm has claimed several attacks around Cairo targeting judges and police officers since last year.
Other militant groups such as Hasm, which the government says are linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, are active in Cairo and other cities, where they have targeted security forces, judges and pro-government figures.
The Brotherhood was outlawed in 2013 after the military ousted one of its leaders, Mohamed Morsi from the presidency following mass protests. It maintains that it is a peaceful organization.
Islamic State has also intensified attacks on security forces and Coptic Christian civilians in the mainland in recent months, killing about 100 Copts since December.