Egyptian soldiers praying as they are deployed in the northern Sinai town of Al-Arish, July 16, 2013.( AFP PHOTO / STR)
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Egyptian military aircraft struck suspected positions of al-Qaida-inspired fighters in villages of the Sinai Peninsula, killing 13 people, military officials said Friday, in a stepped-up offensive after militants downed an army helicopter, raising concerns over an increasingly well-armed insurgency.The military is battling Islamic militants in the northern part of Sinai who have escalated a campaign of bombings and shootings in retaliation for last summer's army coup that ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and for the ensuing crackdown against Islamists. Military spokesman Ahmed Mohammed Ali said 13 suspected militants were killed.The months-long military offensive in Sinai was stepped up after militants shot down a military helicopter on Jan. 25, killing all five of its crewmembers. With the overnight strikes, 20 suspected militants have been killed the past week, one of the highest tolls since the offensive kicked off in the wake of Morsi's July 3 ouster.In its statement posted on militant websites, Ansar denounced el-Said as "a renegade criminal" and warned the Egyptian military and police leaders to expect more attacks.
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