Egypt’s military says it has killed “a large number of terrorist elements” in the country’s Western Desert after its warplanes conducted airstrikes on militants’ positions, destroying a number of explosive-laden vehicles.
Colonel Tamer el-Rifai announced the news in a statement on Tuesday, adding that the aerial raid had been carried out in a rugged area some 80 kilometers southwest of the capital Cairo.
In aerial footage posted by the country’s military, three four-wheel-drive vehicles, allegedly belonging to a suspected terror group, were targeted after many armed men got off them and started running in all directions. Rifai further said that the scene was still being assessed and the casualty count was incomplete.
Elsewhere in his statement, the army spokesman asserted that those targeted were suspected of having been involved in a deadly ambush on Egyptian police less than two weeks ago around 135 kilometers southwest of Cairo, a rare flare-up outside the restive Sinai Peninsula. The Egyptian Interior Ministry said at the time that 16 police lost their lives in the attack.
However, security sources claim that more than 50 were killed in the September 20 incident. The attack sparked huge public anger in Egypt, with many questioning President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s success in fighting militants across Egypt.
Various militant groups, including a branch of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group, have been launching attacks on security forces and civilians since 2013, when Sisi, the then army chief, led a coup against then President Mohamed Morsi which ousted him from power.
Many blame the current insurgency in Egypt on Sisi’s large-scale crackdown on dissent, including the followers of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement.
Mass trials have been held for thousands of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, and hundreds have received death sentences or lengthy prison terms. Egypt outlawed the movement in 2014.