The Egyptian army has said it will continue operations in the Sinai Peninsula until it is cleared of militants affiliated with ISIS, after Wednesday witnessed a bloody rampage by the group through the town of Sheikh Zwaid in an attack that killed more than a 100 people.
The army later announced that the situation in the town was completely under control and the militants had withdrawn from the area.
“Operations in Sinai will continue until the whole region is cleared of ISIS militants,” said an army spokesman.
The army says 17 soldiers were among those killed in the ISIS assault. However, independent news sources say the number is considerably higher.
Sinai Now TV chief Mostafa Singer described the ISIS attack on Sheikh Zuwaid on his facebook page, saying “Militants stormed the town, forcing locals to stay home in fear for their lives. Egyptian army F16s and Apaches were seen over the city, which is suffering from a lack of ambulance cars and healthcare. Locals say the air smells like gunpowder, and the air is clouded because of the smoke from frequent explosions.”
Army soldiers also reportedly killed around 22 militants from the ISIS affiliated militant group Ansar Beit al Maqdis, according to the Egyptian army spokesman.
The militants declared allegiance to ISIS last year. Ansar Beit al Maqdis have previously called for attacks on Egypt’s army, police and judicial officials.
The attack came only two days after the country’s top prosecutor general, Hesham Barakat, was killed in a car bombing in Cairo on Monday.
A similar attack took place on May 16, when a car carrying three young judges was riddled with bullets, killing all of them.
By the break of dawn on Wednesday massive explosions and gunfire erupted in the Sheikh Zuwaid area. At approximately 09:30 local time (06:30 GMT), a large explosion rocked the area - reportedly the result of a suicide truck bomb, according to Youm7.
Unverified reports from Al-Marsad Al-Sinawi, a Sinai-based news outlet, state that an Apache helicopter was hit by a militant missile and was forced to withdraw from the battlefield.
Egypt has been battling an armed insurgency in the Sinai since the country’s first democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi was deposed in a military coup in July 2013, which has seen hundreds of police and army officials killed.
Morsi was forced to step down following a military coup and a crackdown on his supporters, including the bloody dispersal of sit-in protests at Cairo’s Rabia and Nahda Squares which saw around 900 Muslim Brotherhood supporters killed.
Separately on Wednesday police forces killed nine Muslim Brotherhood leaders including Nasr al-Hafi, a former parliamentarian, during a police raid on a flat in western Cairo.
Following this, the Muslim Brotherhood called for a rebellion against Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sisi, saying nine of the movement's leaders were murdered in “cold blood” in a Cairo hotel.
An official statement released in English by the Muslim Brotherhood on Wednesday called on the Egyptian people to launch a rebellion. "Come out in rebellion and in defense of your country, yourselves and your children," the statement said.