CAIRO: An Egyptian army brigadier general and a colonel were killed in a raid Wednesday on a jihadist hideout, as security forces close their pincers on militants in the Nile Delta.
The Islamist militants have increasingly shifted their campaign from the restless Sinai Peninsula to the capital and other Nile Delta areas, with bombing and shooting attacks on security forces.
In the early morning raid north of Cairo, five jihadists with the Al-Qaeda-inspired Ansar Beit al-Maqdis group were also killed in a shootout that lasted for hours, the interior ministry said.
The group has claimed responsibility for some of the deadliest attacks in a low-level insurgency that has killed more than 200 policemen and soldiers since the army overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July.
The cell targeted was suspected of involvement in a Saturday attack on a military checkpoint that killed six soldiers, and the assassination in January of a deputy interior minister in Cairo.
The officers killed in the raid were bomb disposal experts who participated in the operation alongside police, the military said.
It said “a large quantity of explosives” was found in the hideout, with the interior ministry saying militants had used explosive belts during the confrontation.
The hideout near the Nile Delta town Al-Qanatir Al-Khayriya, roughly 30 kilometres (19 miles) north of Cairo, was used to make explosives, the interior ministry said.
Television footage later showed forensic experts sorting through bomb-making equipment and materials, including ball bearings used to inflict more damage in explosions.
Most of the attacks following Morsi’s overthrow have taken place in the lawless Sinai Peninsula, where jihadist leaders are believed to be based.
Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (Partisans of Jerusalem), has spearheaded the attacks, claiming responsibility for bombing Cairo police headquarters in January and downing a military helicopter in the Sinai with a heat-seeking missile.
The group said last week that its founder, Tawfiq Mohamed Fareej, was killed recently when a car accident set off a bomb he was carrying.
Fareej was the field commander of an August 18, 2011 cross-border raid into Israel that killed eight Israelis, the group said.
And he was involved in the failed assassination of the interior minister in September.
The group also acknowledged the death of one of its militants in a shootout with police in Cairo earlier in the month.
Mohamed al-Sayid al-Toukhi was killed in a gun battle with police after they tried to arrest him on suspicion of involvement in the January bombing of Cairo police headquarters.
Several new militant groups have cropped up amid a deadly security crackdown on Morsi’s supporters, which has killed at least 1,400 people, according to Amnesty International.
The government has designated Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation, but the group says it is committed to peaceful protest.
A new Islamist group claimed responsibility this week for a spate of attacks on policemen in the Nile Delta it said targeted 28 security men.
Ansar al-Shariah, a name used by jihadist groups in other countries, recently announced its formation in Egypt, and issued a statement Monday taking credit for the attacks.