Sinai residents accuse state of extrajudicial killings
Ministry labels 10 slain youths ‘terrorists’ but El Arish residents vow to ‘bring to justice all those who killed’ them.
Egyptians in El Arish, a city in the north of the Sinai Peninsula, are accusing the government of the extra-judicial killing of 10 youths by security forces.
The Egyptian interior ministry, which heads the security forces, said on Friday that members of an armed group opened fire at the security personnel as they approached their hideout in an abandoned house.
It also described those killed as “terrorists”.
However, residents of El Arish said six of those named by the ministry had been detained months ago by Egyptian authorities.
On Saturday, the residents held a meeting and demanded a judicial trial of anyone who took part in the alleged killings as well as the release of youths detained without charge.
The residents labelled Egypt’s interior minister “an enemy of the state” and demanded resignations of parliamentarians from their region.
“Listen ruler of Egypt [President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi], the sons of El Arish and the sons of Sinai are one hand,” an El Arish leader said at the meeting.
“They will select a committee to speak on their behalf. They don’t feel that their sons are safe in your jails. They want all of them released immediately, especially those who have no court rulings issued against them.
“They also want to bring to justice all those who killed our sons. Otherwise, we will bring them to justice our way.”
The residents threatened to begin a civil disobedience campaign unless their demands were met within seven days.
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El Arish and Sinai are inhabited by Bedouin tribes whose relationship with the central government has been uneasy for years.
The tribes complain of lack of development and of being “collateral damage” in the government war with armed groups and smugglers.
Police and security forces are often accused of torturing them to death.
Killings of suspects
There are growing accusations that the Egyptian government is killing suspects in detention before claiming they were killed in attacks.
According to a Human Rights Watch report, the government said that its counterterrorism operations in north Sinai killed at least 3,091 “terrorists” between January and July 2015.
The Arab Organization for Human Rights, a London-based organisation, reported that more than 361 people were killed in Sinai by the Egyptian army in 2014 for allegedly being wanted for “terrorist” activities.
Nearly 1481 people have been arrested for the same reasons without a shred of evidence or legal due process, the organisation said.
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Residents of the mountainous region often complain of heavy-handed tactics by security forces, including collective punishment following particularly deadly attacks against government forces.
The campaign grew more deadly and widespread after the military’s 2013 overthrow of Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president.
Sisi, who led Morsi’s removal when he was his defence minister, said last week that 25,000 soldiers are deployed in northern Sinai to fight armed groups.
The previously undisclosed figure appeared to underline the magnitude of the challenge the military faces.