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BREAKING!! Egypt says 3 troops killed fighting militants in Sinai

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Three Egyptian soldiers, including an officer, were killed on Tuesday while fighting militants in the northern Sinai Peninsula as part of a countrywide military offensive announced earlier this month, the army said.

Colonel Tamer al-Rifai, a military spokesperson, said three other officers and four conscripts were wounded in the fighting. He said Egyptian forces foiled a suicide attack and killed 11 militants.

The army says it has destroyed hundreds of targets and killed dozens of militants since the offensive began on February 9. A total of 10 troops have been killed since then.

The figures cannot be independently confirmed as press access is severely restricted.

Egypt has for years been struggling to contain an insurgency concentrated in northern Sinai and spearheaded by a local affiliate of the Islamic State group. Militant attacks have surged since the 2013 military overthrow of an elected Islamist president, and the violence has also spread to the mainland.

The latest security campaign is targeting militants in the Sinai Peninsula as well as the Nile Delta and the Western Desert, including areas along the porous border with Libya.

Egyptian Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Mohamed Farid, said on Tuesday that some 60 000 soldiers and 335 aircraft are taking part in the offensive.

Speaking at a military ceremony attended by President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, Farid called for the operation to be extended, saying troops needed more time to dismantle militant fortifications and clear explosives out of residential neighborhoods.

Al-Sisi, who wore a military uniform at the widely publicised event, is running for a second four-year term next month. He faces no serious opposition, after several candidates withdrew from the race or were arrested amid a massive crackdown on dissent.

Al-Sisi led the military overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi in 2013 amid mass protests against his yearlong rule. The former general has since portrayed himself as a strong leader who can restore stability to Egypt after years of unrest.

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