Egyptian helicopter gunships fired rockets early Tuesday at militants in the northern Sinai Peninsula, causing "dozens" of casualties in an ongoing effort by authorities to assert control over the largely lawless region, security officials said.
Egyptian government troops have stepped up their crackdown on militants in the peninsula bordering Gaza and Israel, arresting suspects and destroying tunnels along the Gaza border used for smuggling weapons and people. Attacks by Islamic militants surged in the lawless Sinai after the toppling of Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi in a July 3 coup.
Security officials said military helicopters targeted multiple locations along the borders with Gaza and in northern Sinai, apparently going after hideouts of suspected militants and weapons caches.
One official said the helicopter attacks surprised militant gatherings in three houses in al-Muqataa and Touma near the border with the Gaza Strip.
Dozens of militants were believed killed and wounded but fighting was still ongoing, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with the media. He did not say if there were any soldiers on the ground assessing the number of casualties.