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Nov 16, 10:42 AM EST

Egyptian army says 3 militants killed, 74 arrested in Sinai


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CAIRO (AP) -- Egypt's armed forces said Thursday that they have killed three "high-level" suspected militants and arrested 74 others in sweeps in the troubled northern Sinai Peninsula in recent days.

Five four-wheel-drive vehicles and four bomb-making workshops were destroyed in the raids, as well as ammunition and fuel stocks, military spokesman Col. Tamer el-Rifai said.

Security forces have been battling militants in northern Sinai for years in an insurgency that picked up after the 2013 military ouster of an elected but divisive Islamist president.

Hundreds of soldiers and militants have been killed in Sinai over the years, although exact numbers are unclear as journalists and independent investigators are banned from the area.

Egypt is also facing a growing number of attacks by militants in its Western Desert, including an attack last month that killed 16 police, according to an official tally issued by the Interior Ministry. Security officials have told journalists that dozens more, including high-ranking counterterrorism officers, perished in the Oct. 20 attack some 135 kilometers (84 miles) southwest of the capital, Cairo.

On Thursday, prosecutors said a "foreign" militant involved in that attack and captured alive following a retaliatory airstrike is a Libyan citizen from the city of Derna, considered a hotbed for Islamic militancy. The private Al Hayat TV channel announced that it would broadcast excerpts of an interview with the man later Thursday.

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