Egyptian forces have killed the head of the local branch of the "Islamic State" terror organization, according to military claims. There was no confirmation from the militants, and the Egyptian army offered few details.
The Egyptian military said Thursday that it had killed the leader of an "Islamic State" (IS) offshoot, along with 45 militants, in a series of airstrikes in the Sinai Peninsula.
The military identified Abu Doaa al-Ansari as the head of the militant group known as The Sinai Province. There was no immediate confirmation from the militants on the attack or the deaths, and details provided by the Egyptian army remained sparse.
The Egyptian military's chief spokesman, Brig-Gen Mohammed Samir, said on the military's Facebook page that al-Ansari had been killed in a military operation south of the coastal city of el-Arish.
Samir said the attack was carried out by counterterrorism forces backed by warplanes and guided by "accurate intelligence."
"This successful operation confirms the pledges of the armed forces to avenge their martyrs and ... pursue all the terrorist elements and leaders wherever they are found until Egypt and its great people enjoy security and stability," the military said.
Mohamed Morsi, when he was still president, along with Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, when he was still Defense Minister
It remains unclear just how many people were killed, and when the attack took place.
But military officials with firsthand knowledge of the assault said al-Ansari and his aides were killed in an airstrike that targeted a house in an olive grove.
The airstrike was part of an intense air campaign that began more than a week ago involving jet fighters, helicopter gunships and drones.
The airstrikes are, in part, a response to the increasing threat ground troops are facing from roadside bombs planted by the militant group.
The Egyptian military has been battling Islamic militants in the Sinai for years. But after the military ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013, the militants heightened their attacks, killing hundreds of soldiers and policemen, mostly in the northern Sinai.
The military has made several attempts to crush the insurgents and cut off their arms supplies by demolishing border villages and tunnels it said were used to smuggle arms and fighters from the Gaza Strip.
The Sinai Province was formerly an Egyptian militant group called Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, or Soldiers of Jerusalem, until it pledged allegiance to IS and changed its name in 2014.
As for its leader, the name of Abu Doaa al-Ansari is not well known and had not been previously mentioned as the leader of the Sunni militant group.
Al-Ansari is thought to be a nom de guerre, as are most names taken by those who join militant groups. The names usually refer to the country or city of a militant's origins or the place he adopted as his home.
bik/cmk (AP, Reuters, AFP)