Egypt 'summarily executes' 18 arbitrarily detained prisoners in Sinai
Locals in Egypt's restive Sinai province are calling on authorities to immediately release the names and photographs of suspected Islamic State militants killed on Sunday, amid reports that the operation is a cover-up for the summary execution of prisoners held under arbitrary arrest.
In a statement, the Egyptian interior ministry claimed that a hideout housing "terrorist elements" who planned to "launch hostile operations" in the Sinai city of Bir al-Abed was targeted on Sunday. A firefight ensued which led to the death of 18 suspected militants, the statement added
Earlier on Friday, two other suspected militants were also killed, according to an army spokesman. Both events came after local IS-affiliate Wilayat Al-Sina claimed responsibility the bombing of an Egyptian army vehicle near Bir al-Abed on Thursday, which killed ten Egyptian soldiers.
Sources who spoke to The New Arab’s Arabic-language service have cast grave doubts on the official account of Monday’s alleged anti-terror operation.
According to an unnamed resident, a large convoy of prisoners from Bir al-Abed police station arrived at an area west of the city - bought under lockdown by police - in the late hours of Saturday, where the group were led to a housing development.
Sounds of gunfire pierced the air, followed by echoes of ambulance sirens as emergency services scrambled to the site and carried the bodies of the detainees to an unknown location, the source added.
According to residents from the area, police were seen surveying the site of the housing development and its surroundings a day earlier.
Tribal leaders in the region are now calling on security forces and local politicians to release the names of those killed and demanded their bodies be returned to their families.
The reports come as Egyptian authorities have carried out a wave of arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances of anyone whom it suspects has links to the Islamic State insurgency in recent days.
In February 2018, a nationwide operation against suspected militants was launched, five years after the fight against a long-running Islamist insurgency that intensified when the military deposed Egypt's first-democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi.
While official figures state that 800 militants been killed since the launch of the latest offensive, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's military have been accused by rights groups of widespread abuses and war crimes against civilians in the long-marginalised region.
Rights groups have accused the military of attacking civilians mistaken for militants, as well as inflating militant death toll to include those of ordinary residents.