CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian air strikes have killed 25 militants in North Sinai over the last two days, security sources said, targeting an insurgency that seeks to topple the Cairo government.
North Sinai is the epicenter of an Islamist insurrection that has killed hundreds of police and soldiers since then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted Islamist president Mohamed Mursi in July 2013 after mass protests against his rule.
But small-scale attacks also hit many parts of the country and the capital, highlighting the challenge confronting the security forces of the Arab world’s most populous country.
Sisi, now president, appointed a new interior minister on Thursday who made a series of appointments to top security posts on Friday. Shortly after they were announced, a bomb exploded near an Emirates NBD bank branch in the Nile Delta town of Mahalla el-Kobra, killing a policeman and wounding 20 people, two of whom were in critical condition, security and medical sources said.
The air raids on Friday hit two houses south of the Sinai town of Sheikh Zuweid, killing 10 militants from Ansar Beit al-Maqdis - which renamed itself Sinai Province after pledging allegiance to Islamic State - the security sources said.
At least 14 other militants were injured in the strikes. On Thursday, 15 militants were killed when air strikes hit three homes south of Sheikh Zuweid. Reuters could not immediately verify accounts of the attacks and the army spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
Egypt has launched a crackdown in Sinai and systematically repressed Muslim Brotherhood supporters and other political opponents across the country. The Brotherhood says it is committed to peaceful activism.
Frequent small-scale attacks have hurt Egypt’s efforts to project an image of stability after four years of turmoil triggered by the 2011 Arab Spring uprising.
Low-level security incidents in Cairo have seen an uptick recently. Two people were killed this week when a bomb exploded near a courthouse in Cairo, on a day when two other bombs went off near police stations.
State news agency MENA said on Friday four homemade bombs had exploded in Cairo and Giza without causing casualties.
The country is hosting an investment conference in Sharm al-Sheikh next week, in which it hopes to secure much needed funds to turn around a battered economy.
Sisi says Egypt faces a long, tough battle against militants.
The new interior minister, General Magdi Abdel Ghaffar, appointed people to the posts of assistant minister for the national security division as well as the assistant minister for the Sinai region, MENA said.
Replacements were also made to the post of assistant minister for the general security department, the prisons division, and heads of security in Cairo, Giza and other governorates.
Reporting by Yusri Mohamed in Ismailia, Omar Fahmy, Ahmed Tolba, Mohamed Abdellah and Mostafa Hashem in Cairo; Writing by Yara Bayoumy; editing by Ralph Boulton and Christian Plumb