Egyptian security forces stormed four militant strongholds in the northern Sinai Peninsula early yesterday, fighting intense gunbattles and arresting 26 people in a massive search for suspects linked to recent bombings in the rugged desert region.
A total of 650 people have been arrested in Sinai since a force of some 4,000 security personnel backed by armoured vehicles launched the sweep on Sunday through Sinai’s desert plains and soaring mountains, a police official said.
Authorities were looking for suspects in a triple bombing that killed at least 64 people last month at Egypt’s popular Red Sea resort of Sharm Al Shaikh on the southern tip of the Sinai.
That attack came 10 months after bombings at two other Sinai resorts near the Israeli border, Taba and Ras Shitan, that killed more than 30 people.
Yesterday’s shootouts occurred at four locations near the Israeli border, where police stormed suspected militant hideouts, two police officials said on condition of anonymity.
One battle continued yesterday evening at the top of Al Halal mountain, about 50km from the border, where a key suspect in the attacks Salem Khadr Al Shenoub was believed to be hiding with other militants, a security officer said.
Three security men were wounded in a land mine explosion in Qusaima, site of another of the battles. The mine was believed to have been left over from the Arab-Israeli wars of 1968 and 1973.