Last updated: 18 August, 2011

Egypt military crackdown nets Sinai Islamist militants

A sweeping Egyptian military operation in Sinai targeting militants behind a spate of attacks has netted 20 people, including Palestinians and radical Islamists, a security official said on Thursday.

Saleh al-Masri, the North Sinai security chief, told the official MENA news agency that the captured men are suspected of involvement in an attack on a police station last month that killed a military officer and three bystanders.

“Twenty wanted men have been captured so far, including Palestinians, and they are undergoing interrogation,” he said.

Masri said some of the captured men belonged to extremist Islamist cells.

Militants in the thinly populated peninsula have attacked a pipeline that exports gas to Israel five times this year and have passed out flyers in which they claimed affiliation with the global Al-Qaeda network.

Masri denied that the militants were members of Al-Qaeda, which has called for an Islamist state in Egypt.

The army arrested four gunmen this week as they prepared to blast the pipeline again, and after more than 1,000 troops and police were deployed in the Sinai to uproot the militants.

But authorities denied the involvement of Egyptians, or Palestinians using Egyptian territory, in attacks in Israel on Thursday close to border in which seven Israelis were killed.