Egyptian military forces have arrested six militants suspected of involvement in a deadly weekend attack upon border soldiers, as the military embarks upon a major crackdown in the Sinai Peninsula, a security official said Friday.
"During search and clampdown operations in the eastern area of the town of Sheikh Zuwaid (near the border with Gaza), the army arrested six key suspects wanted by the military and security agencies. They are being questioned," the official told dpa.
Another official told the state-run newspaper Al Ahram that the suspects had been detained during an early Friday raid on the area.
On Tuesday, the army began a high-profile offensive, targeting the strongholds of militants suspected of killing 16 Egyptian soldiers in a brazen assault against a military outpost in the border town of Rafah, near the Gaza Strip, two days earlier.
Additional troops, warplanes, tanks and armoured vehicles have since been deployed across Sinai, according to state media.
The army has said its campaign had resulted in initial success and would continue.
The operation is Egypt's largest since 1973, when it launched a surprise attack on Israel to recapture the peninsula, which Israel had seized six years earlier. The two countries signed a peace treaty in 1979.
The attack on the checkpoint came as Interior Minister Ahmed Gamal Eddin secured a promise from Sinai's tribal leaders to support the army's current onslaught.
During a meeting with Gamal Eddin in Al Arish, the tribesmen also backed a government plan to seal off illegal tunnels, believed to be used for smuggling people and weapons across the Egyptian-Gaza border.
Al Ahram said the army had destroyed 150 out of an estimated 1,200 tunnels along the border.
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