By Viola Fahmy
CAIRO (AA) – Egyptian security forces killed 10 militants and arrested 400 people, including foreigners, as part of a major security operation in the restive Sinai Peninsula, according to the military.
In a statement on Tuesday, military spokesman Col. Tamer al-Rifai said the 10 militants were killed in an exchange of fire with security forces in the North Sinai city of Arish.
“Some 400 suspected militants and criminals, including foreigners, were arrested,” he said, without giving details about their nationalities.
The spokesman said 79 explosive devices were defused and 143 hideouts destroyed during the operation.
The new death toll brings to 38 militants killed since Egypt launched the security operation on Friday involving the army and police against militants blamed for a string of attacks across the country.
The offensive comes one month before the country’s presidential election, in which incumbent President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi seeks re-election.
In November, more than 300 people were killed in a deadly militant attack on a mosque in the Sinai Peninsula. Following the attack, al-Sisi, a former army chief, ordered the army to crush militants within three months.
On Monday, a group linked to the Daesh terrorist organization threatened to target polling stations during Egyptian presidential polls in March.
The Sinai Peninsula has remained the epicenter of a militant insurgency since 2013, when the army ousted Mohamed Morsi -- Egypt’s first freely elected president and a Muslim Brotherhood leader -- in a military coup.