By Mohamed Mahmoud
CAIRO (AA) – Egyptian security forces have killed 15 militants and arrested 153 people, including foreigners, as part of an ongoing military operation in the restive Sinai Peninsula, according to the military.
In a statement on Wednesday, military spokesman Col. Tamer al-Rifai said warplanes destroyed ten militant hideouts in northern and central Sinai.
“Fifteen militants were killed in an exchange of fire ... and 153 criminals and suspected militants, including foreigners, were arrested," he said.
The statement, however, did not disclose details about the nationalities of the detained foreigners.
The military spokesman said 63 explosive devices were defused during the offensive.
The new death toll brings to 53 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 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.