Sinai militant leader killed in shootout: Egypt army

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Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (C) shaking hands with a member of the security forces during a visit to the Sinai Peninsula following a wave of deadly attacks on armed forces by the Islamic State jihadists, July 4, 2015.

CAIRO - Egyptian armed forces killed a leading member of the country&39;s Islamic State affiliate in a shootout outside his North Sinai home, the army spokesman said in a statement on Saturday.

Selim Suleiman al-Haram, identified in the statement as a leader of the militant group known as Sinai Province, was asked to turn himself in by a group of soldiers that surrounded his house in the town of Sheikh Zuweid, the army said.

He refused, opening fire on the troops and attempting to blow himself up before being shot dead, the army said.

Egypt is battling an increasingly brazen insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula that has killed hundreds of police officers and soldiers since the army toppled Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in 2013 after mass protests against his rule.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has said militancy poses an existential threat to Egypt, the most populous Arab country.

Sinai Province, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State, claimed responsibility last week for a bombing that the army said killed four soldiers near Rafah, a town on the border with theGaza Strip.

The group claimed responsibility earlier this month for a rocket attack on an Egyptian naval vessel near the coast of Israel and Gaza, less than a week after claiming a bombing in Cairo that heavily damaged the Italian consulate.

It also assaulted several military checkpoints in North Sinai, in the fiercest fighting in the region in years.