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Egyptian security forces storm Islamist stronghold

Egyptian security forces have launched an operation against the Islamist-stronghold of Kerdasa, near Cairo. A police general, Nabil Farrag, has been killed in the fighting.

Egyptian troops and police backed by helicopters sought to wrest Kerdasa from Islamist control on Thursday, conducting house-to-house searches in the town near Giza, which lies outside the capital of Cairo.

Authorities were searching for 140 men who they suspected of involvement in an attack on police last month in Kerdasa. The heavily armed perpetrators of that attack killed 15 police officers and allegedly mutilated their bodies.

"The security forces will not retreat until Kerdasa is cleansed of all terrorist and criminal nests," Interior Ministry spokesman Hany Abdel Latif told state media.

Dozens of police and army vehicles entered Kerdasa around dawn, taking up positions at the town's entrances and blocking off the main roads.

According to Reuters news agency, security sources said that they had seized dozens of weapons, including rocket propelled grenades, and arrested 41 people.

Police general killed

General Nabil Farrag, an aide to the security chief of Giza, was killed during the operation. According to the Interior Ministry, he was shot dead by gunmen positioned on the rooftops of schools and mosques.

The assault on Kerdasa was the second major operation against an Islamist stronghold in the past week. On Sunday, Egyptian security forces retook control of Dalga south of Cairo, which had been under Islamist control for two months.

Egypt has been in a state of conflict since the military overthrew the country's first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, last July. T

The military cleared Islamist protesters calling for Morsi's return from their camps in August. Hundreds of people were killed in the process.

slk/ipj (AP, Reuters)