Egypt closes schools in northern Sinai 'indefinitely' amid anti-militant operation

Marsha Scott
February 10, 2018

Security forces have for years battled an Islamic State insurgency in North Sinai that has killed hundreds of soldiers and police.

The Egyptian armed forces announced on Friday launching a massive nationwide counterterrorism operation named "Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018".

The Sinai 2018 Operation came as a result of intensive military efforts and intelligence carried out since 2013, specifically after the Al-Rawda mosque attack on November 24, Spokesman for the Presidency, Bassam Rady, said on Friday.

Egypt has launched a renewed military assault against strongholds held by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) within its borders, principally in the Sinai Peninsula but also in Egypt's Nile Delta and its Western Desert region.

Police and troops have been put on "maximum alert" for the duration of the operation, the army said in a statement.

Security sources said on Thursday the operation, which had been in planning for some time, was unprecedented in its scope, coordination and size, involving thousands of troops, but did not provide further details. Since then, the Wilayat Sinai, the ISIL branch in Egypt, has claimed responsibility for a number of deadly attacks in the area.

Egypt has launched a "comprehensive" security operation against "terrorists and criminal elements" across the country, a military spokesman said.

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Troubled North Sinai has been subject to many attacks targeting Coptic Christians, security forces in checkpoints and Sufi Muslims during Friday prayers.

Egypt has been under a state of emergency since April a year ago, after two suicide bombings at churches claimed by Daesh killed at least 45 people in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria.

Officials are also strengthening maritime and land borders to help cut off supply lines for terrorist activity.

Most of the violence has been in North Sinai province, but there have also been attacks on the military, police and even churches elsewhere, including Cairo.

The head of Hamas, the Islamist group which runs Gaza, was however permitted to travel to Cairo for talks before the border was closed a day earlier than planned.

"Great people of Egypt, in a continuation of law enforcement forces' efforts, elements of our air forces targeted some of the pits, hideouts, and ammunition and weapons warehouses used by terrorist elements as a base to target the law enforcement forces and civilian targets in North and Middle Sinai", he said.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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