Egyptian Army Kills 9 Suspects In Sinai Offensive

EL-ARISH, Egypt (AP) -

Egyptian army troops backed by helicopter gunships attacked suspected hideouts of Islamic terrorists in the Sinai Peninsula on Tuesday, killing nine and arresting 10, a military official said. The latest raids raised the death toll from four days of operations to 29.

Officials have described the military offensive that started Saturday as the biggest sweep of the region in recent years, aiming to weed out al-Qaida-inspired groups who have taken hold in villages in northern Sinai.

A military official said terrorist infrastructure including weapons caches, missile launchers, and nearly 100 vehicles were targeted in the operation. The official said troops, often with the help of air cover, have also targeted shacks and homes used by militants as hideouts, and areas where they stacked fuel for vehicles.

The official says explosives material, weapons and ammunition were found on Monday in the villages of el-Mahdiya and Naga Shabana, south of the town of Rafah near the border with the Palestinian Gaza Strip.

The official said that in addition to the terrorists killed, some 30 were arrested during raids — mostly low-level operatives but part of the network nonetheless. One officer and two soldiers have also been killed in the operation since Saturday, according to the official.

Over 2,000 soldiers are taking part in the campaign — one of the largest deployments in Sinai in peacetime. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.