At least sixteen police officers were killed in a shoot-out during a raid on a suspected militant hideout in Egypt’s Western desert, two security sources said on Friday.
A number of suspected militants were also killed and security forces are continuing to comb the area, a statement by the Interior Ministry said.
Egypt is facing an Islamist insurgency concentrated in the Sinai peninsula from two main groups, including an Islamic State affiliate, that has killed hundreds of security forces since 2013.
Islamist militants have launched several major attacks, most recently targeting churches in Cairo and other cities with the loss of dozens of lives.
The security sources said authorities were following a lead to a hideout deep in the heart of the desert thought to house eight suspected members of Hasm, a group which has claimed several attacks around the capital targeting judges and policemen since last year.
The number of dead was expected to rise, the security sources said.
The suspected militants tried to flee after the exchange of fire, the sources said, and continued to fire from higher ground at a second security unit called in for backup. They also detonated explosive devices.
Two security sources said 8 security personnel were injured in the clashes, while another source said that four of the injured were police officers and four others suspected militants.
Egypt accuses Hasm of being the militant wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group it outlawed in 2013. The Muslim Brotherhood denies this.
The Islamist insurgency in the Sinai peninsula has grown since the military overthrew President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in mid-2013 following mass protests against his rule.
The militant group staging the insurgency pledged allegiance to Islamic State in 2014. It is blamed for the killing of hundreds of soldiers and policemen and has started to target other areas, including Egypt’s Christian Copts