By Viola Fahmy
CAIRO (AA) - Egyptian security forces now deployed in the Sinai Peninsula have killed 53 militants and arrested 685 others -- including some foreign nationals -- over the last six days, according to military sources.
Speaking at a Thursday press conference, army spokesman Tamer al-Rifai said 137 “militant targets” had been destroyed, 53 militants killed and five other militants arrested since the army began a wide-ranging operation last Friday in the restive peninsula.
Another 680 people, “including criminals and individuals suspected of supporting militant groups”, had been arrested over the same period, al-Rifai said.
Egyptian security forces have also destroyed three tunnel entrances near the border with Gaza, 378 “hideouts”, 177 explosive devices, 1,500 kilograms of C4 explosive material and “large quantities” of TNT, according to the army spokesman.
Al-Rifai’s assertions, however, have yet to be independently verified.
Last November, more than 300 people were killed in a militant attack on a mosque in northeastern Sinai.
Following the attack, President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, a former military chief, gave the army three months in which to crush Sinai-based militant groups.
Notably, the latest Sinai offensive comes only one month before scheduled polls in which al-Sisi hopes to secure a second term in office.
On Monday, a Sinai-based militant group -- said to be linked to the Daesh terrorist organization -- threatened to target polling stations during the upcoming election.
Sinai has remained the epicenter of a militant insurgency since mid-2013, when al-Sisi led a military coup against Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president and a Muslim Brotherhood leader.