Arms traffickers have killed six Egyptian border guards in a gun battle in the country’s southwest, the military says.
“The army deplores the killing of an officer and five soldiers from the army’s border protection corps attacked by arms traffickers while patrolling a mountainous area,” it said in a statement issued on Sunday.
According to unnamed security officials, the battle took place late Saturday in the province of Wadi el-Jadid, which borders Sudan to the south and Libya to the west. They added that the clash followed a desert chase.
The attack came after border guards successfully arrested nearly 70 traffickers and seized a large quantity of weapons, the statement noted without saying when the operation was carried out.
A top security official, who refused to be named, also said the assailants are believed to be Egyptians.
Egypt has increased patrols along its border with Libya to prevent arms smuggling and the infiltration of militants. Cairo says many of the weapons used by militants in Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula come from Libya.
On April 2, Cairo sentenced Libyan national Salama Mohamed Salama to 25 years in jail after he had been caught smuggling weapons through the Egyptian-Libyan border.
More than three years after the fall of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in a popular revolution, Libya is still plagued by lawlessness and insecurity with armed groups flexing their muscles.
The former rebels refuse to lay down arms despite efforts by the central government to impose law and order. Libya has been witnessing numerous clashes between government forces and rival militia groups.