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Egyptian military releases report on Sinai operations

According to the report 141 militants were killed in military operations in Sinai throughout May
Residents gather outside a police station in North Sinai's provincial capital of Arish after it was targeted by a car bomb on 12 April (AFP)

More than 141 militants were allegedly killed in Sinai during the month of May, in armed clashes with the Egyptian army, the armed forces announced in a monthly report released Tuesday.

In addition, 393 people were arrested on suspicion of terrorism or as wanted suspects, said the report.

According to the report, the highest number of security raids took place in the cities of Arish, Rafah, and Sheikh Zuweid. The army released the names of the “top terrorist elements” arrested or killed in the clashes, including leading Muslim Brotherhood figure Sabry Al-Ghoul, reported the Egyptian Daily News.

The military operations also included the destruction of underground tunnels and abandoned houses, which were allegedly used as “terrorist locations”.

The Egyptian army began established an evacuated buffer zone along the Rafah border after a suicide truck bomber and armed raid left at least 30 security personnel dead in October last year. Egypt has closed the Rafah-Gaza border crossing since, saying it is working on ending smuggling activities through underground tunnels.

The report was published on the military’s official Facebook page along pictures allegedly depicting the bodies of victims of the militants’ activities, reported the Daily News.

According to Sinai-based journalist Muhammed Sabry the report has had little impact on the locals, who are accustomed to receiving near daily reports on the military operations in Sinai.

“The numbers reflected in these reports are not real, they are exaggerated and the locals don’t believe them anyway,” said Sabry.

According to Sabry, families in Sinai are feeling stuck in between the military-led operations and militant attacks, with many trying to leave their homes and relocate elsewhere.

“Locals are either targeted by the military in operations or arrest campaigns or by the militants if they are thought to be working with the security forces,” he explained.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the former army chief who ousted Morsi, has pledged to eradicate the militants believed to be led by a mysterious Egyptian cleric known as Abu Osama al-Masri.

The militants, who have drawn recruits from Sinai's long-marginalised Bedouin, have taken advantage of the peninsula's desert and mountain terrain to survive.

Six Egyptian soldiers were killed and at least two wounded in a bomb attack on their armoured vehicle in April which took place in an area close to the town of Sheikh Zuweid, near the Rafah Gaza border.

The area of the northern Sinai peninsula is considered a stronghold of Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, a Sinai-based militant group that in November pledged allegiance to Islamic State.