Sixteen Egyptian policemen were killed in a shootout with militants on the road between Cairo and the Bahariya oasis in the country's Western Desert, according to an official toll released Saturday.
The figure from the interior ministry was lower than a toll given earlier by security and medical sources of at least 35 Egyptian police officers killed in the clashes which began on Friday night.
The ministry said it had sent police to the area, less than 200 kilometres southwest of Cairo, after learning that militants were there "hiding, training, and preparing to carry out terrorist operations".
As the forces approached, the militants opened fire with heavy weapons, triggering a shootout that lasted for several hours and also left 13 police officers injured and one missing, the ministry said.
On Saturday armoured vehicles were seen parked on the road close to where the incident took place along with about 15 ambulances.
The ministry said that 15 militants were killed as security forces chased them into the desert after the clashes, adding that the search for suspects was continuing.
There has not yet been a claim of responsibility. A fake claim in the name of the small extremist group Hasam, reported by multiple local media, had spread on social media soon after the shootout.
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