Egyptian authorities arrested at least 600 terrorists in the month of April in massive raids meant to crack down on illicit extremist activity in Egypt’s lawless Sinai region, according to the country’s president.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi revealed the arrest figures during a recent national address to discuss the country’s security situation, which has been in flux since al-Sisi deposed former Muslim Brotherhood-backed leader Mohamed Morsi.
Egyptian security officials have spent great resources ferreting out terrorist forces and a network of illicit tunnels used by extremists in the neighboring Hamas-controlled Palestinian territories.
Palestinian terrorists use these tunnels to smuggle weapons and wage attacks in Egyptian and Israeli territory.
The high number of arrested "reflect the efforts we exert and the magnitude of the challenges we face," al-Sisi was quoted as saying in the speech, excerpts of which were translated and circulated by the Egyptian Embassy.
The local Egyptian population has aided in identifying and capturing these terrorists, al-Sisi said.
The involvement of local citizens "is a strong, moral message that shows they won't accept the current conditions," he said.
Around 80 percent of the tunnels crossing the Rafah border area between Egypt and the Palestinian territories "have been destroyed," al-Sisi said.
Authorities "arrested 62 defendants with explosives and ammunition" during these raids and "confiscated 122 explosive bombs," according to al-Sisi.
Meanwhile, an Egyptian court this week sentenced former President Morsi to death. He was charged with conspiring to break out of prison along with extremist forces.
Morsi also is suspected of working with Hezbollah and Hamas in the lead up to his popular coup that brought him and the Muslim Brotherhood into power.
A recent spate of mass trials and death sentences in Egypt has drawn criticism from the United States and other Western countries.
Following the announcement of Morsi sentence, the State Department said it is "deeply concerned" by the outcome.
At least 100 other Muslim Brotherhood supporters also face the death penalty.