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Egyptian military launches attack on militants in Sinai

A raid on extremist fighters in the Sinai Peninsula has left "dozens" dead, eyewitnesses say. The Egyptian military has boosted its counterinsurgency efforts on the desert peninsula since ousting President Morsi in July.

Egyptian military helicopters launched air strikes on at least two villages in the Sinai Peninsula early on Monday in an effort to rid the area of insurgents, according to security officials and eyewitnesses. Aircraft targeted several houses in each village as part of the operation.

The attack occurred in the north east of the Peninsula, close to its border with the Gaza Strip.

A security official speaking to the Associated Press news agency called it the "biggest aerial assault of its kind in Sinai." The official spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The death toll could not be immediately confirmed. However, a separate security official who spoke to the AFP news agency, also on the condition of anonymity, said "dozens" had been killed. Eyewitnesses also indicated the assault had caused many casualties.

Islamist insurgents have increasingly exerted their control over the desert region, which provides them a convenient location for launching attacks against Egypt and Israel. Bedouin tribesmen in the region have long complained of being discriminated against by the government in Cairo.

However, critics of ousted President Mohammed Morsi insisted he, as a close ally of Islamist groups, had turned a blind eye to militants there during his time in office. Since his ouster on July 3, the Egyptian military has attempted to quash the militants, leading to a stark increase in clashes between the two groups.

kms/pfd (AP, AFP)