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2 soldiers killed in raid on Egypt bomb factory

CAIRO -- A raid by Egyptian police, military and special forces on a suspected bomb factory outside of Cairo turned into an hours-long gun battle with insurgents who detonated car bombs in clashes that killed two military officers and five militants, the Interior Ministry said Wednesday.

The ministry, which is in charge of police, said an investigation showed that the al-Qaida-inspired militant group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, or Champions of Jerusalem, used the timber workshop in Arab Sharkas village in Qalioubiya province to build and store bombs.

During the raid early Wednesday, militants opened fire on security forces and set off the car bombs, sparking a gun battle that lasted several hours, the ministry said.

The fighting killed a brigadier general and a colonel, both explosives experts, military spokesman Col. Ahmed Mohammed Ali said in a post on his Facebook page. Authorities arrested four suspected militants, the ministry said.

Private television station CBC aired footage from the area showing security officials defusing an explosive belt. The workshop could be seen from afar, and brick and metal debris were strewn on the ground.

In the eight months since the military removed Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, violence targeting police officers and soldiers has increased, moving from the restive northern Sinai Peninsula closer to the capital.

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A member of Egypt's security forces moves the body of a militant to the side of the road after a gun battle that lasted several hours in Arab Sharkas village, north of Cairo, Wednesday, March 19. (AP)

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