The decapitated bodies of four men were found in Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula Wednesday, security officials said, adding that they suspected jihadists had killed the victims in the belief they were supporting the army.

Egypt’s military has been carrying out a vast offensive against jihadist groups in the north of Sinai since militants stepped up attacks following the army’s ouster of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in July last year.

Residents in Sheikh Zuweid town, south of Rafah, discovered the bodies on Wednesday, two days after the men had been abducted, according to the security officials.

They said the militants may have murdered the men because they suspected the victims had aided the army’s offensive.

A little known group had recently distributed leaflets in the region which threatened to kill anyone who collaborated with Egyptian forces, officials said.

Militants in northern Sinai, which also borders Israel and the Gaza Strip, have launched a number of attacks in retaliation for a government crackdown on supporters of Morsi.

At least 1,400 people have been killed in the crackdown, mostly Islamist supporters of Morsi.

The militant attacks usually target security forces, but they have also led to civilian casualties.

Earlier this month, a US soldier with the Multinational Force and Observers mission (MFO) was wounded when gunmen shot at his camp in Sinai.