Amnesty calls for probe into killings of militants in Egypt

Amnesty calls for probe into killings of militants in Egypt
3 min read
Amnesty International has called on Egyptian authorities to investigate the extra-judicial killing of militants.
Egypt has been battling militants in northern Sinai for years [Getty]

A global human rights watchdog has urged Egyptian judicial authorities to investigate what appeared to be extra-judicial killings of militants by the military in the country's restive northern Sinai Peninsula.

Amnesty International released a statement on Thursday commenting on a video released earlier this week by Egypt's armed forces, where troops appeared to be hunting down and killing alleged militants in Sinai's desert.

“The Egyptian public prosecution must immediately launch effective, impartial and independent investigations into these apparent extrajudicial executions, with the view to bringing those responsible to justice in fair trials before civilian courts," said the London-based group's statement.

Egypt has been battling militants in northern Sinai for years. Violence and instability there intensified after the 2013 military ouster of Mohammed Morsi, an elected but divisive Islamist president, amid nationwide protests against his brief rule.

The militants have carried out numerous attacks, mainly targeting Egyptian security forces, minority Christians and those who they accuse of collaborating with the military and police. The fight against militants in Sinai has largely taken place hidden from the public eye, with journalists, non-residents and outside observers barred from the area. The conflict has also been kept at a distance from tourist resorts at the southern end of the peninsula.

An Egyptian government press officer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Sunday, the spokesman of Egypt's armed forces, Lt. Col. Gharib Abdel Hafez Gharib, posted a video on his official Facebook page showing troops firing at alleged militants living in tents in the Sinai desert. The video also included aerial shots in which the air force appears to be targeting men and vehicles, and still images of lifeless bodies of suspected militants, their faced blurred out.

In the video, the narrator says the footage was taken during recent operations by the Egyptian army in Sinai, where 89 “highly dangerous” militants and eight troops were killed.

“The deeply disturbing footage in this Egyptian military propaganda video, which celebrates the armed forces' deliberate cold-blooded killings of two unarmed people clearly not posing a threat to life, offers a glimpse of the shocking crimes committed in the name of countering terrorism in Egypt,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty's research and advocacy chief for the region.

Last week, Islamic Sate group militants ambushed a checkpoint in the town of Sheikh Zuweid. killing at least five troops and wounding six, according to officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

The pace of IS attacks in Sinai and elsewhere in Egypt has slowed to a trickle since February 2018, when the military launched a massive operation in Sinai, as well as parts of the Nile Delta and the desert along the country’s western border with Libya.

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