Islamic State has announced the death of one of its leaders in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, where a security source said 15 jihadists were also killed separately.
The Egyptian army, which launched a major offensive against Wilayat Sinai in February, killed Abu Hamza al-Maqdisi in an air raid, ISIS said Tuesday, October 2 in a message on Telegram.
North Sinai has long been a hotbed of militant activity, and Egypt has responded by imposing curfews and establishing buffer zones in the area bordering Israel. Members of the jihadist group Ansar Bait al-Maqdis pledged allegience to Islamic State in 2014, becoming Wilayat Sinai (the “Sinai Province”) and pushing the government to step up its military presence in the region.
Maqdisi, a Palestinian, had been in charge of planning and training for the jihadist group in the Sinai, ISIS said, without giving further details.
A security source told AFP that Maqdisi had been killed, but the army has yet a confirm the reports.
“Abu Hamza al-Maqdisi is one of the IS operatives who took part in their operations against the army,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The militant, who entered Egypt from the Gaza Strip, had been killed on Monday at Sheikh Zuweid, in North Sinai province, according to the source.
Elsewhere in North Sinai, a separate security source said police killed 15 jihadists during a raid in the provincial capital El-Arish.
The “terrorist elements” were killed in an exchange of fire at a farm, the source said on Wednesday without specifying whether the jihadists were ISIS members.
Last month, the U.S. Department of State approved a possible foreign military sale to Egypt of 56,000 tank rounds, including 4,500 120mm Insensitive Munitions High Explosive with Tracer (IM HE-T) tank rounds to be used in support of the Egyptian Army’s operations against Wilayat Sinai.
Jihadists have killed hundreds of police officers and soldiers in the Sinai since the army ousted former president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
Around 300 jihadists and 30 soldiers have been killed since the launch of the military operation dubbed “Sinai 2018,” according to official figures. Wilayat Sinai has claimed responsibility for around 800 of the 1,700 attacks carried out in the region since Morsi’s overthrow.
Journalists are not allowed to travel freely in the area although the military organized a rare visit to El-Arish for foreign media in July.
With reporting from AFP