At least 70 combatants and civilians are feared dead in a string of terror attacks in Egypt's Sinai province, claimed by an "Islamic State" offshoot. Police responded with a Cairo raid on Muslim Brotherhood leaders.
Following a series of attacks in Egypt's North Sinai region that killed at least 70 soldiers and civilians on Wednesday, state security forces stormed an apartment in a suburb in western Cairo. Nine members of the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, including a former parliamentarian, were killed in the raid.
The Reuters news agency cited security sources, who requested anonymity as they were not authorized to comment, as saying that the police had encountered armed resistance in the Cairo apartment, and seized weapons from the site.
However, Brotherhood spokesman Mohamed Montase told Al Jazeera television that the men were just holding an organizational meeting, and denied they were armed.
"A group of Brotherhood leaders were killed in cold blood in a house in 6th of October," Montase said.
Among those killed in the raid was Nasser al-Hafi, a prominent lawyer for the Muslim Brotherhood and a former parliamentarian. He had been sentenced to death in absentia by a criminal court last month on charges related to a mass jailbreak during the country's 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak.
Sinai attacks call government capabilities into question
The attacks in Sinai were claimed by an Egyptian offshoot of the "Islamic State" (IS) terrorist group, Sinai Province. The wide-scale coordinated assault hit several military checkpoints in North Sinai, which borders Israel.
The Egyptian army said around 70 militants were responsible for the attacks. On top of the military personnel and civilians who were killed, around 38 militants lost their lives in the ensuing clashes.
Security officials said that the insurgents had planned to lay siege to the town of Sheikh Zuweid, where most of the fighting was concentrated, but that "we have dealt with them and broke the siege."
Israel closed two of its Egyptian border crossings in response to the attacks. The fighting, which lasted longer than eight hours, marked a significant uptick in violence in the restive region, and has cast doubts on the mainly military government's ability to contain the insurgency that has already killed hundreds of soldiers and police.
Wednesday's attacks came just two days after Egypt's top prosecutor, Hisham Barakat, was killed by a car bomb in Cairo.
es/msh (AP, Reuters)