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Egypt's security forces clash with militants near Cairo


Giza's deputy security chief was killed and at least 65 people were arrested Thursday as Egyptian security forces clashed with gunmen in the town of Kerdassah, part of a continuing crackdown on supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohammad Morsi.


Egyptian security forces fought running battles with gunmen, in which a police general was killed, after storming a village near Cairo Thursday in the latest crackdown on Islamist militants, officials said.

Military and police vehicles surrounded Kerdassah near the Giza pyramids after dawn, as police special forces deployed to confront "terrorists" in the village, the interior ministry said.

Giza deputy security chief Nabil Farrag was killed in clashes as 65 people were arrested in the operation,which carried on into the afternoon.

Authorities imposed a daytime curfew on the village as they went door to door searching for 140 wanted men, including those behind an August 14 "massacre" in Kerdassah in which 11 policemen were killed.

Heavy gunfire was exchanged as suspected militants shot at police from inside several buildings, AFP photographers at the scene said.

Thursday's raid was part of a massive crackdown on supporters of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi who was overthrown by the military on July 3.

Around 1,000 Islamists have been killed in the campaign in two months, as have dozens of soldiers and policemen.

Morsi is himself being held by the military at an unknown location, and hundreds of members of his Muslim Brotherhood are being detained on various charges.

Authorities installed by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi have vowed to end the recent wave of "terrorism" which they attribute to Morsi supporters.

"Security forces are pursuing their campaign in Kerdassah and will not stop until they clear (the village) of all terrorist and criminal elements," interior ministry spokesman Hani Abdel Latif told reporters.

Television footage showed a thick pall of tear gas over the area, as security vehicles moved around deserted parts of Kerdassah, a stronghold of hardline Morsi supporters.

On August 14, just hours after a crackdown on two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo, 11 policemen were found dead at Kerdassah police station.

Several other police stations near the village were also torched.

Thursday's operation comes days after a similar raid on the central Egyptian town of Delga in Minya province, which was held by hardline Islamists for more than a month.

Since the Islamists' takeover there, three churches were torched, dozens of Christian homes burned and two Copts killed, according to rights groups.

"Delga and Kerdassah are among the most negative consequences of the Brotherhood regime," Abdel Latif said.

Since the ouster of Morsi, Egypt has been polarised, with international leaders repeatedly calling for reconciliation among the country's divided political factions.

"I think reconciliation is absolutely necessary, so it has to be possible, even if it looks extremely difficult," the European Union's special envoy to Egypt, Bernardino Leon, told reporters on Thursday.

He said the lack of trust between the new authorities and the Muslim Brotherhood "is deeper than one month ago".

Cairo metro bombs hoax

Meanwhile, several metro services for hundreds of thousands of commuters were briefly interrupted early Thursday after two suspected bombs on the tracks in a south Cairo station turned out to be a hoax.

The devices "made to look like bombs contained no explosives," an interior ministry official said, adding: "They were fake."

A security official told AFP that cement bags with wires attached were placed on the tracks.

Bomb experts sent to the scene searched for more such devices before services resumed soon afterwards, one official said.

The cabinet said on Thursday that a nightly curfew imposed on Cairo and 13 other provinces will be shortened by two hours.

It will now run from midnight to 5:00 am except on Fridays, the weekly Muslim day of prayer and often a trigger for unrest, when it will begin at 7:00 pm, the cabinet said.

On September 12, the interim authorities extended for security reasons a state of emergency in force since mid-August by another two months.

Egypt has been gripped by security-related problems since the 2011 uprising that toppled long-time president Hosni Mubarak.

The unrest surged after the military's ouster of Morsi more than two months ago.

The army has also been engaged in a campaign in the Sinai peninsula, pouring in troops and armour to crush militant attacks, which increased in number after Morsi's ouster.

The Islamist president's removal came after millions of people took to the streets to demand his overthrow following a year-long turbulent rule that deeply polarised Egyptians.



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