By Hussein Qabani
CAIRO (AA) – Seven militants were killed and over 400 suspects detained as part of an ongoing military operation in Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula, according to the military.
In a statement on Saturday, military spokesman Col. Tamer al-Rifai said warplanes destroyed eight militant targets and killed three militants in northern and central Sinai.
“Another 4 militants were killed in an exchange of fire in Arish,” in northern Sinai, he said.
According to the spokesman, some 408 people, including criminals and suspected militants, were detained in the operation, which entered its second week.
The military spokesman said 45 explosive devices were defused and 158 hideouts destroyed during the offensive.
The new death toll brings to 63 militants killed and hundreds detained 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 Sinai-based militant groups within three months.
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.