2 Egypt soldiers killed fighting Sinai militants
EL-ARISH, Egypt (AP) -- The Egyptian military fought wanted al-Qaida-inspired militants Friday in the northern Sinai Peninsula, an operation that killed two soldiers as part the country's push against Islamic militants in the region, a security official said.
The clashes came as security forces elsewhere in the country fired tear gas to disperse scattered protests by rock-throwing supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi.
The Sinai clash flared after troops backed by armored vehicles swept through a village called el-Mahdiya along the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. The operation targeted three of the most-wanted Ansar Jerusalem militants, including Shadi el-Manaei, a suspected mastermind of previous attacks, the official said.
Ansar Jerusalem, like other Sinai-based al-Qaida-inspired groups, has been blamed for rising attacks against Egypt's military and police since a July 3 military coup toppled Morsi.
The group claimed responsibility for the suicide car bombing targeting Egypt's Interior Minister in September, an attack he escaped from unharmed. Scores of Egyptian police officers and soldiers have been killed in attacks by suspected Islamic militants since the coup.
In Cairo, the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and Suez in eastern Egypt, Morsi supporters marched after Friday prayers and chanted against the military under the slogan "Our 2012 Constitution" - referring to the suspended charter drafted under Morsi that has been extensively amended after his ouster. The interim government has set Jan. 14-15 for a public vote on the amended constitution.
The vote will be the first real test of Egypt's military-backed interim government, which hopes for a comfortable majority to enshrine its legitimacy. Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood says it will boycott the vote and is calling on its followers to take to the streets during the two-day referendum.
A security official said more than 40 people were arrested across the country Friday over the protests. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.