Cairo - Egyptian security forces clashed with gunmen on the
outskirts of Cairo on Thursday as the army-backed government moved to reassert
control over an Islamist-dominated area where political violence broke out last
A police general was killed in an exchange of gunfire
outside the town of Kerdasa, 14km, from the capital.
Dozens of police and army vehicles entered Kerdasa at
daybreak in the second operation this week to restore control over areas where
hostility to the authorities has grown since the army deposed President Mohammed
Morsi on 3 July.
"The security forces will not retreat until Kerdasa is
cleansed of all terrorist and criminal nests," Interior Ministry spokesman
Hany Abdel Latif told state media.
The police were hunting 140 suspects.
There had been little or no sign of state authority in
Kerdasa since an 14 August attack on its main police station in which 11
officers were killed.
The building was hit with rocket-propelled grenades and
torched after police had stormed pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo and killed
hundreds of his supporters.
State TV reported that the main suspects in the Kerdasa
attack had been detained. Security sources said dozens of weapons, including
rocket-propelled grenades, had been seized, and 41 people arrested.
Security forces blocked roads in and out of the town and
helicopters flew overhead.
Militant attacks have been on the rise since the overthrow
of the Islamist Morsi, Egypt's first freely-elected president.
The army is mounting an operation in the Sinai Peninsula
against al-Qaeda-inspired groups. Shootings and bomb attacks have also taken
place in the Nile Valley - two members of the armed forces were shot dead in
the Nile Delta on Tuesday.
In Cairo on Thursday, explosives experts defused two
primitive bombs on the metro public transport system.
The authorities say they are in a new war on terror against
Islamist militants. State media have labeled the Muslim Brotherhood, the group
that propelled Morsi to power last year, as an enemy of the state.
TV footage showed members of the security forces in body
armour and armed with automatic rifles fanning out in Kerdasa,
In a shoot-out in a nearby village, heavy gunfire was heard
as police chased a group of men into side streets, the footage showed. Gunfire
appeared to hit near a police position.
In a similar operation earlier this week, the security
forces moved into the town of Delga in the southern province of Minya - another
area known for Islamist sympathies and a major theatre for an insurrection
waged by Islamists in the 1990s.
The 14 August attack on Kerdasa's police station was
triggered by the security forces' operation against two pro-Morsi protest camps
in Cairo. That led to the worst spasm of violence in Egypt's modern history,
with more than 100 members of the security forces killed as well as the
hundreds of Morsi supporters.
Mass arrests have netted at least 2 000 people, mostly Morsi
supporters, since his downfall. The former president and many Brotherhood
leaders have been thrown in prison.
Egypt has been in a state of emergency since 14 August and
large parts of the country remain under a nighttime curfew. The government
decided on Thursday to shorten the hours of the curfew to start at midnight
instead of 23:00 from Saturday.