Egyptian security forces clashed with gunmen early Wednesday, arresting 26 people during a massive search for suspects linked to the recent bombings in the region.
Some 4,000 security personnel, bolstered by armored vehicles, have been scouring the Sinai's desert plains and soaring mountains during the week searching for terrorists involved in the July 23 Sharm el-Sheik bombings, which killed at least 64 people, and the Oct. 7 attack on a hotel in Taba and a nearby beach camp. More than 30 died in those attacks.
Wednesday's shootout took place in four areas close to the Israeli border as police tried to storm hideouts of gunmen suspected of having links to the Sinai bombings, at least two police officials said on condition of anonymity as they were unauthorized to speak to the media.
"There was strong resistance but the security forces are executing the operation as planned," said one of the officials.
Three security men were wounded Wednesday in a land mine explosion in Qusaima, one of four mountainous areas surrounded by the forces about 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of the Israeli border, the official said. The mine was believed to have been left in the area for at least two decades since the Arab-Israeli wars.
Another official said some 650 suspects have been arrested in Sinai since the search started Monday. Most of the arrests took place in el-Arish on the Mediterranean coast in northern Sinai.
In a separate clash Tuesday, a police officer and two suspected militants were wounded in a shootout east of the Suez Canal between the security forces and suspected militants responsible for the Sharm and Taba bombings.
Meanwhile, Egypt's state-run Al Ahram newspaper reported Wednesday that police have arrested 20 people who might have had a direct links to the recent attacks.
Citing unidentified security officials, the paper said investigators believe they have netted the leaders of the terror cell that planned the attacks, the AP reports.