Egyptian forces hit back at Daesh after Sinai airport attack

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CAIRO: Egyptian forces clashed with militants on Wednesday near the airport of the northern Sinai city of El-Arish, a day after a missile hit the facility during a visit by the defense and interior ministers, according to security officials.

The officials said five militants and an army captain were killed in the fighting in olive orchards near the airport of the coastal city. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

The clashes came a day after a “projectile” hit the airport during a previously unannounced visit to El-Arish by Defense Minister Sedki Sobhy and Interior Minister Magdy Abdel-Ghaffar, who is in charge of police, according to a brief military statement issued Tuesday.

It said an officer was killed and two others were wounded in the attack, which also damaged a helicopter. It did not say whether the two ministers were at the airport at the time of the attack.
Daesh has claimed the responsibility for the attack, the group’s Amaq agency said, but provided no evidence.

President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi met with both ministers in Cairo on Wednesday, according to presidential spokesman Bassam Radi. The presidential office released a photo of the meeting in which both ministers looked unharmed as they sat grim-faced with El-Sisi and several other top military and intelligence officials.

Egyptian security forces have been battling militants in Sinai for years.
The attack on the airport, at a time when the city was highly secured for the ministers’ visit, pointed to enhanced intelligence and military capabilities on the part of the insurgents. Such official visits are planned and carried out in secret, with no live media coverage.

El-Sisi has ordered security forces to restore “security and stability” in Sinai by the end of February, telling them to use “brute force” to crush the militants.

Those orders came after an attack on a mosque in northern Sinai last month that killed more than 300 worshippers. The Nov. 24 attack was the deadliest against civilians by extremists in Egypt’s modern history. Among the dead were 27 children.

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