At least nine people were killed and more injured Saturday, when the Egyptian army mounted a large-scale offensive against armed groups in North Sinai, security officials said. The attack was the latest in a series of running battles between security forces and fighters in the restless region.
Earlier reports suggested more than 30 people died, but Egyptian state news agency MENA said the army killed nine "terrorist elements" and arrested nine others during the operation.
Backed by attack helicopters, dozens of armored vehicles carrying infantry participated in the operation near Sheikh Zuweid, a town bordering the Palestinian Gaza Strip.
Military sources told Al Jazeera that aircrafts fired rockets at "terrorist hotbeds" before ground troops rushed in and arrested 15 people.
The Egyptian army has faced a heightened insurgency in the sparsely populated north of Sinai since it ousted President Mohamed Morsi on July 3, although it is unclear whether the armed groups are at all affiliated with Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.
Several dozen soldiers and policemen have died in the violence, including 25 conscripts executed on a roadside after their bus came under attack.
A witness said the column of tanks, trucks carrying infantry, rocket launchers and other military vehicles on the road Saturday appeared to be one of the largest units deployed to the area in recent years.
Elsewhere in Egypt, military engineers defused mortar rounds rigged to explode on a railroad linking the northeastern canal cities of Ismailiya and Suez, security officials said.
Al Jazeera and wire services