by Tarek El-Tablawy
Egyptian aircraft struck Islamic State hideouts in the Sinai peninsula, killing 19 militants, the military said, part of a stepped-up campaign against the group’s local affiliate since it bombed two Coptic churches on Palm Sunday.
At least one senior member of the Ansar Beit al-Maqdis movement died in the strikes in north and central Sinai, according to a statement posted on the armed forces spokesman’s official Facebook page.
Militant violence has intensified ahead of Pope Francis’s scheduled visit to Egypt later this month. On Tuesday, Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack on a police checkpoint near the famed St. Catherine’s Monastery in south Sinai, killing one policeman and bringing militant violence closer to Red Sea resorts vital to Egypt’s tourism industry.
The violence has weighed on efforts to revive Egypt’s economy, which has struggled to recover since the 2011 popular uprising that deposed leader Hosni Mubarak. Authorities declared a nationwide state of emergency following the Palm Sunday attacks, which killed at least 45 people.