Egyptian police have killed two leaders of the Hasam militia in a shootout after intercepting them as they relocated to a new hideout on Cairo’s outskirts, the government said Tuesday.
The interior ministry said the two militants were “prominent leaders” of the Hasam group — an extremist movement the government accuses of having links to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
The militia ambushed a police convoy and killed three officers in May, in an attack the group claimed at the time and which the government has since also blamed on them.
Authorities learned that some of the group’s leaders were “about to move their equipment and weapons used in terrorist operations”, the ministry said.
They were planning to relocate to the hideout in a newly constructed area of New Cairo, outside the city’s main ring road, said the ministry.
Security forces acting on this information set up checkpoints on roads going to the area, it said in a statement.
A suspect car approached one of them before “its passengers opened fire” on police and the officers shot back, killing the two militants.
The two were identified as students aged 24 and 21 who were “among the most prominent leaders in the Hasam terrorist group,” the ministry said.
In the vehicle police found seven automatic weapons, two other firearms, a large amount of ammunition, masks and radio communications equipment.
The ministry did not say when the shootout took place, only disclosing that the group had been planning to move locations on Tuesday.
The militants who died were said to have been behind other attacks, including the May 2 ambush in which three policemen were killed and five wounded near the Cairo ring road.
The two militants that were killed carried out attacks on the orders of “their leaders who have fled abroad,” the ministry said.
The government says Hasam is linked to the Brotherhood movement of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi who was overthrown by the army in 2013.
The militia has previously claimed responsibility for deadly attacks against security forces as well as assassination attempts targeting a pro-government Muslim cleric and Egypt’s deputy prosecutor general.
On Twitter, the group said on Monday it has killed 27 people from “the military occupation militias,” in reference to Egypt’s security forces, since its launch a year ago.
Egypt is also fighting an insurgency by a local affiliate of the Islamic State group which is based in North Sinai province in which hundreds of soldiers and policemen have been killed since Morsi’s ouster.
Following deadly church bombings in April, which IS claimed, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency on April 10, which has been extended.
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