CAIRO (Reuters) - A top leader of Egypt's most active Islamist militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis was killed on Friday by Egyptian soldiers in the lawless north of the Sinai Peninsula, a military spokesman said on Facebook.
Sinai-based Ansar, which seeks to topple the government, has killed hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and police over the past year and beheaded several people in recent weeks, saying they were spies for Israeli intelligence.
The spokesman said Shehata Farhan was implicated in operations targeting of police and security forces and was killed during a raid in the town of Rafah, near the border with Gaza.
Egypt said last week it had killed a field commander of Ansar, Mohamed Abu Shatiya, in clashes south of Rafah.
Egyptian security officials have said Ansar has contacts with al Qaeda offshoot Islamic State, now targeted by U.S.-led air strikes in Iraq and Syria after sweeping through border areas and declaring a state.
Islamic State last month urged Egyptian militants to press ahead with attacks on security forces and beheadings.
Despite several army operations, Egypt's military has struggled to tackle Ansar and other militant groups.
Washington has designated Ansar a terrorist organisation, but has said it generally maintained a local focus.
(Reporting by Ahmed Tolba; Writing by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Alison Williams)