2 Egypt police officers killed in militant search

Two senior Egyptian police officers were killed yesterday by land mines possibly rigged to explode during a search of the Sinai Peninsula's rugged mountains for terror suspects linked to recent tourist resort bombings, security officials said.


Major General Mahmoud Adel and Lieutenant Colonel Omar Abdel Moneim are the highest-ranking police officers killed in Egypt since an Islamist insurgency in the mid-1990s. They also are the first slain since 4,000 security personnel began a sweep Sunday of the northern Sinai for suspects linked to July's Sharm el-Sheik attacks and two October resort bombings.

Yesterday's blasts occurred on 5,900-foot Halal mountain, some 37 miles south of the Mediterranean coastal town of El Arish, the Interior Ministry said.

It did not say whether the mines had been planted by suspected militants or was left over from previous Arab-Israeli wars.

But at least two security officials said initial investigations indicate that fugitives hiding on the mountain concealed the mines. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

The first mine exploded as a bulldozer cleared a path for two vehicles carrying Adel, Moneim, and several other security personnel, the officials said. The second detonated after the officers got out of their vehicle to inspect the scene of the first blast.

The Interior Ministry said two officers were wounded, and the security officials said the civilian bulldozer driver was also injured.

After the explosions, security forces found three pickup trucks loaded with drugs and weapons in the area and arrested five people. Officials are still trying to determine the identities of the five.

The killings were the first of Egyptian security officers in Sinai since a driver shot a police officer to death in May.

In February, another police officer was killed during clashes with suspected militants connected to the Taba and Ras Shitan bombings.

Police have been scouring northern Sinai's deserts and jagged mountains and storming suspected militant strongholds for those behind the July 23 Sharm el-Sheik bombings, which killed at least 64 people, and the October attacks.

At least 650 people have been detained since Sunday.

Von: 26 August 2005, http://www.boston.com, by Mariam Fam

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