Protesters hold signs against the detention of Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt, in downtown Beirut, yesterday. The Committee for the Protection of Journalists said the detention of Al Jazeera scribes in Egypt signals the first time that any country has charged a TV network of terrorism-related charges.
CAIRO: Egypt’s military said it killed 16 militants yesterday in air strikes in the restive Sinai peninsula, which militants have used as a springboard for attacks across the country.
The air force has pressed ahead with air strikes in the region even after militants in north Sinai downed a helicopter last month with a shoulder fired missile, killing the entire crew of five.
The militants have killed scores of soldiers and policemen in a growing insurgency after the army overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Mursi in July.
Yesterday, air strikes killed “16 extremely dangerous extremists belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood,” military spokesman Ahmed Ali said on Facebook.
Mursi’s Brotherhood was designated as a terrorist group in December after a suicide car bombing of police headquarters killed 15 people. The Brotherhood says it eschewed violence decades ago and is dedicated to advancing its agenda by peaceful means.
Another group, Ansar Beit Al Maqdis, claimed responsibility for the December attack and another car bombing outside police headquarters in Cairo last month.
The group, which appears to be inspired by Al Qaeda’s ideology, is based in the sparsely inhabited north of Sinai, along the borders of Gaza and Israel.
It has branched out from attacking security forces in the peninsula to bombings and assassinations of police officers elsewhere in Egypt.
Meanwhile, a new militant group has claimed responsibility for two bombings in Cairo that targeted the Egyptian police on Friday and has vowed to carry out more attacks, underscoring the risk of a widening campaign of violence against the security forces. The group — Ajnad Misr, or Soldiers of Egypt — said it carried out the attack that wounded six people in a statement posted on a Facebook page set up in its name. The statement was quoted by a website used by militant groups and by SITE Intelligence group, which monitors such sites.
While many of the attacks have occurred in North Sinai — where the military said yesterday it had defused a roadside bomb planted to target army personnel — attacks have become increasingly regular and lethal in the Nile Valley and Delta.
In a raid outside Cairo, the Interior Ministry said police seized an arms cache including 10 bombs stored at an apartment.
Ajnad Misr emerged late last month, claiming responsibility for six attacks at the end of January, according to SITE. “(The security forces) are not safe from retaliation which is pursuing them,” its statement said.
“Our attacks on them will continue all the while their crimes continue,” the statement said. Many of the attacks have been claimed by Ansar Bayt Al Maqdis, a group based in North Sinai that has turned its attention from Israel to the Egyptian government since Mursi’s overthrow.
The army-backed authorities have cracked down hard on Mursi’s Islamist sympathisers since his removal. Hundreds of his supporters were killed during protests in the weeks after his removal and thousands more were arrested.
Several hundred members of the security forces have been killed in bombings and shootings since then.
The Interior Ministry said one of the bombs seized in the raid on the apartment outside Cairo in 6th of October City, 30km (19 miles) from the capital, weighed 25 kg (55 pounds) and was equipped with timers and remote controls. The other nine were described as primitively assembled.Agencies