Egyptian forces managed to kill Muslim Brotherhood members who are being trained to attack Christians

(REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih/File Photo)FILE PHOTO: An Egyptian military vehicle is seen on the highway in northern Sinai, Egypt, May 25, 2015.

Egypt's Interior Ministry has announced that security forces have killed eight members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group who were being trained to attack government and Christian targets.

One of the militants killed in a shootout that took place in Egypt's southern desert was Helmi Masri Mohareb, a leader who transported militants across Egypt's southern border to join training camps, according to a statement released by the Interior Ministry on Monday.

Mohareb was wanted for other cases and has been sentenced to death in absentia on terrorism charges.

Agence France-Presse noted that the statement did not mention the exact location and time of the shootout, nor the country in which the militants were alleged to have received training.

The ministry stated that members of the Brotherhood opened fire on the security forces when they were approached in the desert, prompting the Egyptian forces to return fire.

According to the ministry's statement, the militants were formed based on assignments issued by Muslim Brotherhood's leadership abroad to the group's leaders in Egypt.

The banned organization planned "to form groups to carry out a series of hostile operations in the coming period by sending elements from these groups to join training camps abroad." Then they were to "return to target state institutions, and government and Christian buildings, and a number of public figures and policemen, with the aim to create a state of chaos, instability, and to foment internal strife."

The news of the shootout came after the Egyptian air force destroyed a group of vehicles that crossed into Egypt from Libya carrying smuggled weapons.

The military stated on its Facebook page that 15 four-wheel-drive vehicles loaded with weapons and other contraband have been destroyed in the airstrikes. It released a video showing jets and helicopter gunships attacking targets in the desert, but it did not mention who was driving the vehicles.

Egypt has designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group, but the organization maintains that its activities are peaceful.

The Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi became Egypt's first civilian president in 2012, but he was overthrown by the army, following a mass protest against the divisive Islamist's rule.

The ensuing crackdown on the organization has left it in disarray, with competing wings that have disagreed on whether to use violence, after the authorities stamped out their protests. Analysts have said that a section of the organization has encouraged armed attacks against the country's policemen.

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