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Egypt's military spokesman says soldiers kill 7 suspected militants in restive Sinai Peninsula

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CAIRO — Egyptian troops killed seven suspected militants and arrested five as part of an ongoing offensive in the volatile Sinai Peninsula, where the military has been trying to quell a spreading insurgency by Islamic militants, an army spokesman said.

The troops killed three militants in an exchange of fire while four others died when a group tried to attack a house of in the border town of Rafah, according to a statement posted on Brig. Gen. Mohammed Samir's official Facebook page late Monday.

Five militants were arrested and five were wounded, the posting said. It was unclear if the five were the same people.

Militant attacks in Sinai and elsewhere in Egypt have escalated since the military's ouster last July of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and its subsequent crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood supporters.

Militant attacks also have spread at times from the Sinai, with dramatic bombings in several Nile Delta cities and Egypt's capital, Cairo, largely targeting soldiers and police officers. Authorities accuse Morsi and the Brotherhood, which they have branded a terrorist organization, of helping militants find new ground in northern Sinai. The Brotherhood denies using violence.

An al-Qaida-inspired group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, has claimed responsibility for most of the attacks in Sinai and across Egypt. On Tuesday, the group claimed responsibility for killing two senior officers Friday in the Sinai.

In a statement posted on its official Twitter account and on a militant website which usually carries messages from al-Qaida affiliated groups, it said: "The two are responsible for safeguarding the borders with Zionist entity and tightening the siege of our people" in Gaza.

It identified the two, attacked in the northern city of el-Arish, as Brig. Gen. Mohammed Abed Rabbu al-Sawarka, commander of the central border security sector, and Brig. Gen. Amr Fathi Saleh Amara, in charge of the armed forces in the town of Sheikh Zuwayed sector.

The group also published a picture of a handgun it said was Amara's personal weapon.

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