Six Egyptian soldiers died in a blast that hit their vehicle during a raid against "terrorists" in restless North Sinai province, the army said Thursday.
"An officer and five soldiers died when an explosive device blew up their vehicle during a raid on a terrorist den," spokesman Tamer al-Rifai said in a statement.
In a separate operation, three militants were killed, he said, adding that they were in possession of weapons, ammunition and explosive devices.
Meanwhile, Egypt took heavy security measures to protect New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Interior Minister Magdi Abdel Ghaffar instructed in a meeting with his security assistants to beef up security near churches and vital state facilities, the state news agency MENA reported.
More security patrols will be deployed to the streets, Ghaffar said.
Ghaffar added that the Ministry of Interior will not tolerate any practices that violate the law, and will not hesitate to deal with violators with the utmost firmness and with all those who seek to jeopardize the security and safety of the country’s citizens.
Militants have escalated their attacks on security forces, the military and civilians since the 2013 ouster of president Mohamed Morsi, who belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt considers a terrorist organization.
They are particularly active in North Sinai province where a wing of ISIS has a presence.
Meanwhile, Egypt's Minya Criminal Court sentenced 15 Muslim Brotherhood members to 10 years in prison on charges of sabotage, inciting violence, rioting and calling for protest.
The Public Prosecutor referred the defendants to trial for belonging to a terrorist group established contrary to the provisions of the law, inciting to demonstrate, and causing injury to a number of security forces in Minya city, following the dispersal of the Rabaa and Nahda sit-ins in August 2013.