Arab Spring alert.
EL ARISH, Egypt – Egyptian troops killed as many as six Islamist militants after storming their hideout near the isolated border with Israel on Sunday, security sources and eyewitnesses said.
The troops found the militants in the settlement of al-Goura, about 15 km (10 miles) from the frontier, as they searched for jihadists who killed 16 Egyptian border guards a week ago.
The latest clash is part of a security sweep that began on Wednesday and is the biggest military operation in the region since Egypt’s 1973 war with Israel. No one has claimed responsibility for killing the border guards.
It is an early test for Islamist President Mohamed Morsy, elected in June, to prove he can rein in militants whose campaign on the border worries Israel.
“People in the area supplied information that there was a group of unidentified people staying in a makeshift hut. The area was immediately raided. The group opened fire and the police returned fire,” one police source said.
A senior police officer said six people had died in the fighting at al-Goura – three from bullet wounds and three more whose scorched bodies were found in the hut which was burned. Another security source said the death toll was five.
In addition to those killed, a seventh militant was seriously injured and taken to hospital in El Arish in north Sinai, said the senior policeman, who like other security sources did not give his name because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
A Reuters reporter obtained video footage of the scene showing three bodies smouldering in the burned remains of a building in the desert and armored vehicles in a line nearby.
One of the police officers said the soldiers found guns, rocket launchers, a truck and a motorcycle at the scene.
A resident of al-Goura told Reuters he had seen the lifeless bodies of two men who were not from the area, and said two other militants were arrested. “They resisted very strongly,” he said by telephone. “They fired rocket-propelled grenades at the troops.”