Sixteen security personnel were killed and thirteen others were injured during clashes with unknown militants in Egypt’s Western Desert, the Ministry of Interior’s second statement said on Saturday.
A major shootout occurred after state security received information about a hideout of militants 135 kilometres away from Cairo, to which security forces planned to raid.
The minister said fifteen militants were also killed, and security forces are still combing the area, as there is still one police officer reportedly missing in action.
On Friday the ministry said that a number of policemen were killed in clashes with militants in bloody clashes, without clarifying the actual number of deaths, which media outlets reckon to have reached 50.
BBC and Reuters reported that more than 50 police officers were killed during clashes, while local media said more than 35 were killed, citing security sources.
Moreover, General-Prosecutor Nabil Sadek ordered State Security Agency on Saturday to hold investigation into Al-Wahat’s shootout on Friday, which killed dozens of security forces during an exchange of fire with militants in a Giza oasis in Egypt’s Western Desert.
The clashes started when the elements saw the security forces approaching. No terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet. However, media reports have quoted some security sources attributing the attack to “Hasm” movement, which was involved in several previous attacks in the same area targeting security personnel.
Hasm appeared in early 2016. In August, the group said it was behind the failed assassination attempt of former Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa. In October of the same year, militants driving a black private vehicle opened fire on military leader Adel Ragaai, assassinating him in front of his residence in Al-Obour City.
Security forces are still deployed around the area to observe terrorist elements. The desert road was closed from the direction of Giza and Fayoum with a number of checkpoints, in addition to encircling the mountainous area to besiege the terrorists and seize the weapons and explosives in their possession.
Until the time of print, no official state of mourning was declared, as the state regularly declares such statuses shortly after any terror attack in the country.
Scheduled events related to the state’s recent national projects were cancelled. On Saturday, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi was scheduled to attend the launching of the new city of El Alamein, but the visit was postponed until further notice.
Also, the Egyptian Stock Exchange (EGX) decided to delay the trading session on Sunday for a minute to start the session at 10.01am to mourn the victims of the shootout.
The ministry has imposed a state of emergency in all its sectors and departments and cancelled vacations and declared a state of high alert, to prosecute and arrest the perpetrators.
Similarly in 2014, militants attacked a military checkpoint in New Valley governorate in southern Egypt, killing 21 border guards and injuring 4 others.
Throughout the past five months, the armed forces has made a number of military naval operations to foil armies trafficking attempts in the Western Desert.
On 12 October, the government decided to extend state of emergency that was imposed in the country last April by Al-Sisi for an additional three months. It was imposed in wake of a deadly attack that took place against churches in the governorates of Tanta and Alexandria.