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Egypt troops move against Islamist stronghold

KERDASA, Egypt — Egyptian security forces backed by combat vehicles and helicopters stormed a town near the Pyramids — famed among tourists for its traditional rugs and dresses — aiming to drive out Islamist militants who held sway there for more than a month.

Many residents of Kerdasa greeted the forces with cheers, a witness said. The assault, in which a police general was shot to death by militants, highlighted authorities' stepped-up resolve to move against strongholds of armed supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

But Kerdasa residents expressed fear that the security crackdown will only drive out the militants temporarily.

Egypt's new military-backed leadership has conducted a wide-scale crackdown on Morsi's supporters, while the most hard-core elements of his Islamist backers have unleashed a campaign of violence ranging from car bombs to attacks on Christians.

Militants took control of Kerdasa in mid August, when a mob attacked the local police station, killed 15 policemen and mutilated their bodies. It was part of a wave of retaliatory violence after security forces cracked down on the main pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo with heavy assaults that killed hundreds.

On Thursday, a force of troops and policemen encircled Kerdasa around 6 a.m. The police general fell in the first moments. On a highway overpass on Kerdasa's edge, Gen. Nabil Farrag had just addressed his men to rev them up, saying, "Let's go, men! Go in, toward martyrdom!"

Almost immediately, they came under fire from nearby rooftops, according to an Associated Press photographer and video journalists at the scene.

The troops searched the town house-to-house for militants. They arrested 65 suspects, including three wanted for the attack on the police station, state TV reported.

Egyptian security forces take cover during clashes with suspected Islamist militants in the town of Kerdasa, near the Pyramids, on Thursday.

Associated Press

Egyptian security forces take cover during clashes with suspected Islamist militants in the town of Kerdasa, near the Pyramids, on Thursday.

Egypt troops move against Islamist stronghold 09/19/13 [Last modified: Thursday, September 19, 2013 10:01pm]
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