Senior military officials in Egypt say soldiers have killed a top militant in the Sinai Peninsula amid clashes.

The officials say that Mohammed Abu Sheeta, a leader of the al-Qaida-inspired group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, was killed Thursday in the town of Rafah, which borders the Gaza Strip and Israel.

The officials say Sheeta had led the abduction of Egyptian soldiers to press the government to release his detained brother.

The officials also say soldiers discovered an underground field hospital and a store packed with explosives. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.

Ansar Beit al-Maqdis has claimed responsibility for several deadly suicide bombings in Egypt over the past year.