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Dozens of Egyptian police killed in raid on suspected militant base

Saturday 21 October 2017, by siawi3

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/dozens-of-egyptian-police-killed-in-raid-on-suspected-militant-base/2017/10/21/688e24f8-8359-4492-94cc-ff7b5f55964d_story.html?utm_term=.352a0c94b214


Dozens of Egyptian police killed in raid on suspected militant base

By Sudarsan Raghavan and Heba Farouk Mahfouz

October 21 at 12:19 PM

CAIRO — Dozens of Egyptian police were killed in clashes with militants in the country’s western desert on Friday, one of the deadliest attacks this year suffered by Egypt’s security forces fighting a persistent and spreading Islamic militancy.

At least 55 policemen, including 20 officers and 34 conscripts, were killed in a shootout during a raid on a militant hideout about 80 miles from the Egyptian capital, the Associated Press reported, citing security officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. Several other local media more or less reported similar death tolls.

In a statement, the Egyptian Interior Ministry acknowledged Friday’s operation but said the gun battle resulted in 16 policemen being killed and 13 injured. The ministry also reported that 15 militants were killed. But western diplomats and security officials described the death toll as in the dozens with few militants, if any, being killed. It was unclear whether the Interior Ministry was referring to its own personnel killed and not a total that included forces from other security-related branches.

If the higher death toll is true, it would be the single deadliest assault on Egypt’s security forces by Islamic militants in recent memory.

The incident took place late Friday after security forces received intelligence that suspected Islamist militants were at a hideout in the Baharia Oasis, south of the capital. As they approached, they were ambushed by gunmen using rocket-propelled grenades and bombs.

No group yet has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The militants, according to local media reports, belonged to the Hasm Movement, a relatively new group that Egypt’s security forces claimed to be armed wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement that once led the country and that is now outlawed. But analysts say there is no conclusive evidence that Hasm is officially linked to the Brotherhood, though some Hasm members are said to be Brotherhood members who now favor violent means to oppose the government.

Last month, at least 18 policemen were killed when a suicide bomber targeted their convoy near the North Sinai provincial capital of Arish. That attack was claimed by the Islamic State’s affiliate, known as Wilayat Sinai, which has been waging a four-year-long insurgency against the government mostly in the northern Sinai.

The State Department said in a statement Saturday that “the United States strongly condemns the terrorist attack against Egyptian security forces near the Bahariya Oasis yesterday, which killed dozens of Egyptian personnel and wounded many others.”

“The United States stands with Egypt at this difficult time, as we continue to work together to fight the scourge of terrorism.”