Egypt’s military said Monday that 36 jihadists, an officer and three soldiers were killed over five days during a sweeping operation against Islamic State group militants in the Sinai. The army launched the campaign on February 9 after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is standing in elections this month for a second term, gave it a three-month deadline to crush IS in the Sinai. Security forces “eliminated 30 armed takfiri elements during a shootout with raiding forces” in the northern and central Sinai Peninsula, the military said in a statement. A police shootout also left six “takfiri elements” dead and destroyed “an extremely dangerous terrorist cell,” it added. Over the past five days, soldiers also arrested 345 people “including a number of extremely dangerous takfiri elements and fugitives,” it said. An officer and three soldiers were killed in the fighting, while three officers and five soldiers were injured, it said. Sisi issued his ultimatum in November after suspected IS gunmen massacred more than 300 worshippers at a Sinai mosque associated with Sufi Muslim mystics. Security forces have sought to quell attacks by an Egyptian jihadist group that later declared allegiance to IS since the military ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, following mass protests against him. The group has killed hundreds of soldiers, policemen and civilians, mainly in its North Sinai stronghold but also elsewhere in Egypt. The jihadists have also killed scores of Christians in church bombings and shootings. IS claimed the 2015 bombing of a Russian airliner carrying tourists from the South Sinai resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, which killed all 224 people on board. Published in Daily Times, March 20th 2018.