Islamic militants clashed for more than two hours Sunday with army and police in the Sinai Peninsula, wounding seven people in fighting touched off by a security dragnet, Egyptian officials said.
The officials backed away from an earlier report that the militants had taken children hostage to be used as human shields, saying that the fighters instead jumped briefly behind a school wall to hide as children were arriving.
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The fighting broke out after police backed by the military staged dawn raids on a number of homes in Sheik Zuweyid, a desert village about 18 miles from northern Sinai's main city of el-Arish.
Officials said four men suspected of belonging to extremist militant groups were arrested.
The raid was part of a major security sweep in Sinai in response to a brazen attack by suspected Islamic militants on a military outpost near the Egypt-Israel-Gaza border on August 5, which killed 16 Egyptian soldiers. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.
In a sign of how emboldened the militants have become, during Sunday's fighting a group chased down 13 armored personnel carriers that had conducted the raids, firing on them and at a helicopter involved in the security sweep.
Three policemen, two soldiers and two civilians, a 10 year-old girl and an elderly Bedouin woman, were wounded in two hours of fighting in Sheik Zuweyid, officials said.
Later the same morning, militants in Land Cruisers fired rocket-propelled grenades and bullets at northern Sinai's main security headquarters in el-Arish, two police stations in the area and a checkpoint. No one was wounded in those attacks.
On Friday, in the midst of protests across against an anti-Islam film produced in the United States, militants banners and shouting "God is great!" stormed an international peacekeepers' base in northern Sinai and battled troops, wounding two Colombians.
They stole some weapons and radio equipment, officials said.
The base near the border with Gaza and Israel houses some 1,500 members of the force, including US troops.
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