* Security forces hunt 140 people in area on Cairo outskirts
* Eleven policemen killed in attack on police station last month
* Two "primitive" bombs defused on Cairo metro line
* Government shortens curfew hours (Adds description from town, hand grenade attack)
By Asma Alsharif and Yasmine Saleh
CAIRO, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Egyptian security forces clashed with gunmen on the outskirts of Cairo on Thursday as the army-backed government moved to reassert control over an Islamist-dominated area where militants staged a bloody attack on a police station last month.
A police general was killed in an exchange of fire during the operation in Kerdasa, a town 14 km (9 miles), from Cairo.
Dozens of police and army vehicles entered the town at daybreak. It was the second operation this week to restore control over an area where Islamist sympathies run deep and hostility to the authorities has grown since the army deposed President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood on July 3.
"The security forces will not retreat until Kerdasa is cleansed of all terrorist and criminal nests," Interior Ministry spokesman Hany Abdel Latif told state media.
The police were hunting 140 suspects.
There had been little or no sign of state authority in Kerdasa since an Aug. 14 attack on its police station in which 11 officers were killed.
The building was hit with rocket-propelled grenades and torched after police had stormed pro-Mursi protest camps in Cairo and killed hundreds of his supporters.
The main suspects in the Kerdasa attack had been detained, state TV reported. Security sources said dozens of weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades, had been seized, and 41 people were arrested.
Militant attacks have been on the rise since the overthrow of the Islamist Mursi, Egypt's first freely-elected president.
The army is mounting an operation in the Sinai Peninsula against al Qaeda-inspired groups. Shootings and bomb attacks have also taken place in the Nile Valley - two members of the armed forces were shot dead in the Nile Delta on Tuesday.
In Cairo on Thursday, explosives experts defused two primitive bombs on the metro public transport system.
The authorities say they are in a new war on terror against Islamist militants. State media have labeled the Muslim Brotherhood, the group that propelled Mursi to power last year, as an enemy of the state.
Heavy gunfire was heard in a village near Kerdasa as police chased a group of men into side streets, TV footage showed. Gunfire appeared to hit near a police position.
Security forces in body armour and armed with automatic rifles fanned out in Kerdasa. Two policemen were wounded by a hand grenade thrown from a rooftop, security sources said.
Army checkpoints secured the entrances to the town. Tyres set ablaze to obstruct the operation smouldered in the roads.
Around a dozen residents dragged a man towards an army checkpoint, yelling "We caught one". After handing him over to soldiers, they chanted "the army and the people are one hand".
They said he had been caught in a car with weapons.
In a similar operation earlier this week, the security forces moved into the town of Delga in the southern province of Minya - another area known for Islamist sympathies and a major theatre for an insurrection waged by Islamists in the 1990s.
The Aug. 14 attack on Kerdasa's police station was triggered by the security forces' operation against two pro-Mursi protest camps in Cairo.
That led to the worst spasm of violence in Egypt's modern history, with more than 100 members of the security forces killed as well as the hundreds of Mursi supporters, and a spate of attacks targeting the Coptic Christian community.
Mass arrests have netted at least 2,000 people, mostly Mursi supporters, since his downfall. The former president and many Brotherhood leaders have been jailed on charges of inciting violence.
Egypt has been in a state of emergency since Aug. 14 and large parts of the country remain under a nighttime curfew. The government decided on Thursday to shorten the hours of the curfew to start at midnight instead of 11 p.m. from Saturday (Additional reporting by Ali Abdelatti, Shadia Nasralla and Tom Perry, Writing by Tom Perry, Editing by Angus MacSwan)