CAIRO — Egyptian security forces were hunting for supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood on Friday after retaking control of a town near Cairo in a crackdown on Islamists.
State television and newspapers said government forces had taken control of the town of Kerdasa but security sources said the area had not yet been stabilized.
On Thursday, army and police forces stormed Kerdasa where Islamist sympathies run deep and hostility to the authorities has grown since the army overthrew and imprisoned Morsi on July 3.
So far 85 people have been arrested and security forces are scanning the area. State television said dozens of weapons including rocket-propelled grenades were seized in the operation.
Islamist militants have increased attacks since Morsi's downfall, targeting security forces in the Sinai near Israel on an almost daily basis and carrying out operations elsewhere, including a failed suicide bombing attack on the interior minister in Cairo.
The violence has revived memories of the 1990s when the state faced an Islamist insurgency that hurt tourism, one of the pillars of the economy. Egypt's finances have suffered since the army toppled Morsi following mass protests against his rule.
The economic picture is likely to get far bleaker if militants carry out high-profile attacks on Westerners or senior government officials, like Islamists did in the 1990s.
A police general was shot dead during the Kerdasa operation and at least nine policemen and soldiers were wounded by a hand grenade in clashes with militants on Thursday.
Security forces had been absent from the area since Aug. 14 when an attack on its main police station left 11 police officers killed. A police officer at the scene said they have around 150 arrest warrants for people suspected of involvemnet in attacks on the police station and a church in Kerdasa.
The Kerdasa police station was set on fire after it was hit with rocket-propelled grenades on Aug. 14, the day that police stormed pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo, killing hundreds of his supporters.
Army-backed authorities, who say they are waging a “war on terrorism”, have arrested top Brotherhood leaders to try to decapitate one of the Middle East's most influential Islamist movements. The media has whipped up the public against Islamists by portraying them as bloodthirsty enemies of the state.
The army has been mounting operations in the Sinai Peninsula against al-Qaida-inspired groups who possess rockets and grenades.
An explosive device targeting three busses carrying soldiers, was detonated on a road to Rafah, near the border with Gaza, said security officials. There were no injuries, army sources said.