CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian security forces killed 13 militants during a raid on a farm hideout in the western desert region on Friday, a week after a deadly attack on a police convoy, authorities said.
An Interior Ministry statement gave no details on the militants, but Egyptian forces have been battling several armed Islamist groups, mostly focussed on an entrenched Islamic State affiliate that has killed hundreds of police officers and troops in the northern Sinai Peninsula since 2013.
“They took a house in the farm as a temporary hideout faraway from security monitoring to receive newly recruited elements and train them and prepare the explosive devices,” the ministry statement said.
The clashes were in an area near the Assuit-Kharga desert highway, around 400 km (248.55 miles) southwest of Cairo, in New Valley province that shares a long border with neighbouring southern Libya. Southern Libya has become a hideout for militant brigades taking advantage of the security vacuum there.
After clashes with the militants, the ministry said 13 bodies were recovered at the farm, some wearing militant uniforms. Security forces also recovered weapons, suicide bomb belts, cash and ammunition.
The statement did not say whether the group was linked to the militants who attacked police last week in a remote area of Giza governorate, 135 km outside Cairo, when sources say they were searching for a militant hideout.
“Security forces dealt a severe blow to the terrorist elements in revenge for the blood of the men who were martyred last week in the oasis,” the state news agency MENA said earlier, citing a high-level security source.
Most of Egypt’s violence is centred in the northern Sinai, where a local group, Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, pledged allegiance to Islamic State in 2014. It had mostly targeted security forces with ambushes and suicide attacks, but has spread to other areas of Egypt outside the peninsula.
The western desert region has long been for a route for smugglers and arms coming across Libya’s porous border. The Egyptian military said on Monday its air force hit eight four-wheel-drive vehicles carrying arms and explosives at the western border with Libya, killing the militants on board.
Reporting by Omar Fahmy; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Robin Pomeroy and Jon Boyle