Egyptian security forces kill 17 militants in shootout in North Sinai

Egypt’s Interior Ministry said on Tuesday that 17 militants have been killed in North Sinai by Egyptian police forces after shootouts at two locations, with an official statement from the Ministry claiming the group was planning to carry out terrorist attacks in the country targeting army and police personnel.

A statement for the ministry said that National Security Agency (NSA) was tipped off about a terrorist group hiding in a backyard in the Obidat area of al-Arish city.

The statement said that the group was planning to use their hideout as place to plot violent attacks. State security forces and the militants exchanged fire at the location, leading to the deaths of 11 “terrorists,” the statement described.

Police seized six automatic guns, two shotguns, and three improvised explosive devices, according to the Interior Ministry’s statement.

Some of the individuals at the hideout fled the scene to an abandoned house in the al-Hous area in al-Arish, and Egyptian forces tracked them, leading to another exchange of fire and the deaths of six other militants, the statement said.

Egypt’s security forces seized four automatic guns and two explosive belts at the second location, the statement added.

NSA sources said that that follow up process carried out by Egypt’s Interior Ministry enabled them to track the movements of the terrorist group, as well as their alleged plans to carry out attacks against security forces and checkpoints in al-Arish and North Sinai.

Government security agencies then coordinated to launch an operation to eliminate the group, according to the sources.

The sources added that Egypt’s NSA is continuing efforts to track militant extremist groups that seek to carry out violent attacks in Egypt and abroad.

Police have filed a report on the militants’ deaths and referred it to the Supreme State Security Prosecution for further investigations.

Egypt has for years fought to push back an extremist insurgency in North Sinai, which is led by a local affiliate of the Islamic State (IS) group. Extremists have targeted military personnel at security checkpoints in the area as well as civilians.

Over the weekend, ten militants and an Egyptian army officer were killed in an attack on a security checkpoint in North Sinai, according to a statement issued on Sunday evening by Spokesperson for the Egyptian Armed Forces Colonel Tamer al-Rifaei.

Last week, suspected Islamic militants blew up a natural gas pipeline in North Sinai. Militants have regularly targeted gas pipelines between Egypt, Jordan, and Israel since Egypt’s 2011 uprising, according to a report from The Associated Press.

In related news, Egypt’s Parliament on Monday unanimously voted in favor of new amendments to the 2015 terrorism law, which regulates state-designated terrorist organizations and terrorism lists, and referred the draft law to the State Council for review before the final vote.

The amendments are set to toughen up Law 8/2015 and expand the definition of funding terrorism under the law and include life sentences and capital punishment for those accused of funding terrorist-designated groups, according to a report from The Associated Press.

The Parliamentary session on the amendments witnessed fierce debate over the definition of “terrorist entities” under the amendments to the law, with discussion revolving around a contentious provision to include satellite channels and social networking websites in the state’s classification of potential terrorist entities.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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