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Egypt bombings 'mastermind' killed

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Nasser Khamis el-Mallahi

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CAIRO, Egypt (CNN) -- The leader of the terrorist group blamed for recent bombing attacks in the Sinai peninsula has been killed in a gun battle with Egyptian security forces, the Egyptian interior ministry reported.

Nasser Khamis el-Mallahi, 30, the leader of Tawhid wal Jihad, was killed and a top aide -- Abdallah Alyan Abu Jarair -- was captured in Tuesday's clash, the ministry said.

Egyptian officials said el-Mallahi was the "mastermind" of the April 24 triple bombings in the Egyptian tourist spot of Dahab, which killed 19 people.

They said his death was a significant breakthrough.

The gunbattle took place near the town of Al-Arish, where el-Mallahi and Abu Jarair are from, in the country's northern Sinai peninsula

The ministry praised the role of local residents for helping track down the men.

Egyptian authorities found automatic weapons, ammunition and hand grenades on el-Mallahi and Abu Jarair after the firefight.

El-Mallahi's Tawhid wal Jihad -- Unity and Holy War -- has also been linked to a failed attack two days after the Dahab bombings, in which two suicide bombers targeted multinational forces post in northern Sinai, but killed only themselves.

Egyptian authorities also blame the group for the July 2005 attacks in Sharm El-Sheikh, in which suicide bombers killed 67 people and left over 200 injured; and the October 2004 attacks on the resorts of Taba and Ras Shitan that killed 34.

CNN's Ben Wedeman contributed to this report

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