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Egypt says 19 suspected militants killed in restive Sinai

Troops find troves of automatic rifles, hand grenades and rocket-propelled grenades in possession of militants, army says
Egyptian policemen stand guard at checkpoint on road leading to North Sinai provincial capital of El-Arish in 2018 (AFP/File photo)

Egypt's military said on Saturday that it had killed 19 suspected militants in targeted ground and air operations as part of its battle to quell a long-running insurgency in north Sinai.

In a video statement replete with a dramatic score released on its social media, the army said troops killed three "extremely dangerous" militants as well as 16 others in precision air strikes on their "terrorist hideouts", AFP reported.

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Troops found troves of automatic rifles, hand grenades and rocket-propelled grenades in possession of the militants, the army added.

Security forces have been battling a long-running insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula - in Egypt's northeast - that is spearheaded by a local affiliate of the Islamic State (IS) group.

In 2014, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, an established militant group in Sinai, pledged allegiance to IS and changed its name to Sinai Province, claiming to be an IS branch.

As the Egyptian military has struggled to defeat the group, which has launched attacks on tourists, security forces and houses of worship, it has also been accused of committing war crimes against civilians in the area.

About 970 suspected militants have been killed in the region, along with dozens of security personnel, according to official figures.

Since a coup led by general-turned-president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in 2013, the militants have ratcheted up attacks in Sinai, with nearly weekly incidents as they accuse the army of displacing locals and launching air strikes on civilian homes.