CAIRO : A senior Egyptian army officer was shot dead outside his home in a Cairo suburb on Saturday, a military official and a relative told AFP.

Militants have killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers, mostly in the Sinai Peninsula, but such attacks on senior officers are rare. Brigadier General Adel Ragaei, who commanded an armoured division deployed in the Sinai, died in a hail of bullets as he left his home in the Obour City suburb, sister-in-law Huda Zein Elabedine told AFP.

A little-known group called Liwa al-Thawra claimed the attack, in a message posted on Twitter. "At 6 am (0400 GMT) they killed him. I can't tell you if it was six or twelve bullets. It was before he could get into his car," Elabedine said.

A military official told AFP that the officer has been "martyred." He did not provide further details. Liwa al-Thawra said a "group of our fighters" shot the officer in the head and made off with his weapon. The claim could not be independently verified.

The apparently Islamist group had previously claimed responsibility for an attack on a police checkpoint in August, posting footage of the shooting on the internet.

Militants loyal to the Islamic State group are waging a deadly insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula, which borders Israel and the Gaza Strip.

They have also claimed attacks in or near Cairo, including the abduction and murder of a Croatian oil worker and the bombing of the Italian consulate in 2015.

Other lesser-known groups have also conducted attacks since the army overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 and cracked down on his supporters.

One group, which calls itself the Hasam Movement, has claimed several attacks in or near Cairo, including the assassination of a police officer and the attempted killing of a senior prosecutor.