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Egyptian Military Presses Attacks on Sinai Militants

FILE -Egyptian soldiers stand guard outside smuggling tunnels beneath the Egyptian-Gaza border in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip February 19, 2013.
Egyptian authorities say government troops, backed by gunships and tanks, swept through villages in the northern Sinai peninsula Monday, seizing weapons on the third day of an operation targeting Islamist militants.

The military on Saturday launched what it calls its biggest operation against Sinai terrorists in years. Officials later said about 20 militants had so far been killed in the operation near the Palestinian Gaza Strip.

This recent Sinai surge in militant activity corresponds to the security vacuum left after former president Hosni Mubarak was driven from power in 2011.

Interim government officials say militant attacks, including last week's failed assassination attempt on Egypt's interior minister, have further surged since the military ousted Mubarak's replacement, Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, in July.

Egyptian and Israeli authorities allege that Sinai militants are linked to extremists in Gaza, and they accuse the Sinai fighters of launching attacks on Israel from Egyptian territory.