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Egypt army cracks down against Sinai militants after helicopter downed

Jan. 27, 2014 10:25 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 28, 2014 10:58 A.M.)
CAIRO (Ma’an) -- In response to downing an Egyptian military helicopter by gunmen affiliated to the al-Qaeda inspired Ansar Beit al-Maqdis group in Sinai Peninsula on Sunday, the Egyptian army started new military campaigns using new tactics, according to army sources.

A source told Ma’an in North Sinai that "the army will response toughly to this qualitative development Takfiri groups have made."

The source highlighted that it’s believed that militant groups in Sinai have recently possessed heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles which can gun down helicopters flying at low altitudes.

These missiles are manufactured in Russia, China and Egypt.

As part of the campaigns, Egyptian forces demolished on Sunday afternoon dozens of hideouts, houses, motorcycles and other vehicles believed to be used by armed groups in Sinai.

The Egyptian army, said the military sources, is trying to target militants who have heat-seeking missiles in Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid cities in North Sinai district.

A missile fired from al-Tuma village near Sheikh Zuweid on Sunday downed an Egyptian military helicopter. Ansar Beit al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for the attack.

In response, Egyptian forces stormed the village killing one militant and injuring several others. Five injured militants were arrested after they were evacuated secretly to a public hospital in el-Arish.

During the campaign, which started Sunday, Egyptian border guards discovered and demolished six smuggling tunnels under the borders between Rafah city in southern Gaza Strip and the Egyptian Rafah on the other side of the border.

Egyptian armed forces launched large scale military action against militants in the Sinai Peninsula in September, in what officials described as the largest mobilization of force in the area since the 1973 war with Israel.

The action comes in the wake of rising instability and almost daily attacks in the region since the ouster of president Muhammad Morsi, as groups conduct a campaign against state institutions and the military.
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