Egypt’s interior ministry said on Tuesday 16 suspected militants have been killed in North Sinai, where security forces have for years been battling a local affiliate of ISIS extremist group.

The militants were killed during police raids on their hideouts in the provincial capital el-Arish, the ministry said in a statement, without detailing when the raids took place.

Based on intelligence from the national security department, the ministry alleged the militants had been planning attacks on “important and vital facilities” as well as prominent figures in the city.

Egypt has for years been fighting an insurgency in North Sinai, which escalated following the 2013 military ousting of president Mohamed Morsi.

Since then, hundreds of police officers and soldiers have been killed in militant attacks.

In February 2018, the army launched a nationwide operation against the militants, focusing mainly on the turbulent North Sinai region.

Some 650 militants and around 45 soldiers have been killed since the start of the offensive, according to separate statements by the armed forces.