Egypt police kill four suspected militants in shootout

Security forces detain a suspect (2nd R) in Kerdasah, a town 14 km (9 miles) from Cairo in this September 19, 2013 file photograph. An Egyptian judge sentenced 185 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death on December 2, 2014 over an attack on a police station near Cairo last year in which 12 policemen were killed. The ruling is preliminary and subject to a lengthy appeals process. It also goes to the country's top religious authority for approval although his opinion is not binding. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Files (EGYPT - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST MILITARY CRIME LAW)

Egyptian police have killed four suspected Islamist militants believed to have been planning a “major attack” in a shootout near Cairo, the interior ministry said.

The “takfiri” cell — an Arabic word for extremists who declare other Muslims disbelievers — had been meeting when police raided their hideout in Giza province, southwest of Cairo, the ministry said in a statement on Friday.

“When the terrorist cell sensed the police drawing near they began shooting at them, which prompted the police force to fire back,” the statement said.

The suspects’ affiliation was not immediately clear but police often describe jihadists with links to the Islamic State group or Al-Qaeda as “takfiris”.

They were “preparing to execute a major attack in the coming period,” the statement said.

The Islamic State group’s Egyptian branch has killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers in attacks, mostly in the Sinai Peninsula but also in Cairo.

The country has witnessed a deadly insurgency since the military overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 and police cracked down on his Muslim Brotherhood movement, killing hundreds of protesters.