16 militants killed in Sinai operation, says Egypt’s army

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Egypt’s military said Sunday 16 militants, an officer and a soldier were killed in the past four days during a major military operation against Daesh militants in Sinai.

The army launched a sweeping campaign after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who is standing in elections for his second term this month, gave them a three-month deadline to crush Daesh in Sinai.

He issued his ultimatum in November after suspected Daesh gunmen massacred more than 300 worshippers in a Sinai mosque associated with Sufi Muslim mystics.

Since the military, then led by El-Sisi, ousted President Muhammad Mursi in 2013, security forces have sought to quell attacks by the Egypt branch of Daesh.

The militants have killed hundreds of soldiers, policemen and civilians, mainly in North Sinai but also elsewhere in Egypt.

They have also killed scores of Christians in church bombings and shootings, as well as bombing a Russian airliner carrying tourists from an Egyptian resort in 2015, killing all 224 people on board.

The military says it has evidence Daesh has sought to move members to Sinai following its defeats in Iraq and Syria.

On Saturday, an Egyptian court sentenced 10 people to death and five others to life in prison for forming a “terrorist cell” to plot attacks on security forces and other institutions.

The state-run MENA news agency said the defendants are affiliated with the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group and are accused of aiming to assault security personnel and state institutions, target Egypt’s Christians and disrupt public order.

The verdict comes after consultation with the Grand Mufti, Egypt’s top religious authority, over preliminary death sentences handed to the defendants earlier. The consultation is a formality followed by courts in the cases of capital punishment.

MENA said three of the 15 defendants were sentenced in absentia. Life sentences in Egypt are equal to 25 years. All of the sentences are subject to appeal.

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