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Egypt troops kill a dozen suspected militants in Sinai

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Almost a dozen suspected militants have been killed in the northern Sinai Peninsula as Egyptian troops continue an extensive campaign against an Islamist insurgency in the volatile region.

An air offensive by Apache helicopters Thursday targeted a militant hideout south of the North Sinai town of Rafah, killing at least five suspected Islamist militants and injured several others, eyewitnesses told Reuters’ Aswat Masriya.

Elsewhere in Sinai, six militants were killed late Wednesday in a separate strike in the northern town of Sheikh Zuweid, state news agency MENA reported.

Eight other suspects were arrested in the raid, and some 27 insurgent hideouts of shacks and houses used as bases for terrorist attacks have been destroyed.

Islamist militants, who had already expanded their activities in the peninsula since the January 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak, have stepped up their attacks since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

But the southern part of the region had been spared from terrorist attacks until the bombing of a tourist bus Sunday near the Taba border crossing with Israel killed three South Koreans and a local driver.

The attack, the first targeting tourists since Morsi’s ouster, marks a change of tack among radical groups to targeting tourists and waging an “economic war” against the state, and is likely to further damage an already ailing tourism industry.

Scores of policemen and soldiers have been killed in drive-by shootings and bombings amid a growing Islamic insurgency in recent months.

A Sinai-based militant group,  Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, claimed responsibility for the bus bombing and threatened more attacks on economic targets.

The group has claimed most of the deadly terrorist attacks in recent months, including a failed assassination attempt on Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim and the downing of a military helicopter that killed five crew members in January.

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