Eight fighters killed after Sinai attack: Egyptian officials

Security forces kill fighters in restive northern Sinai Peninsula, two days after deadly attack kills several policemen.

    Egypt has battled ISIL fighters for years in the northern Sinai region [Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters]
    Egypt has battled ISIL fighters for years in the northern Sinai region [Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters]

    Security forces in Egypt have killed eight suspected fighters who were involved in a deadly attack this week on a police checkpoint in the restive Sinai Peninsula, the country's interior ministry said.

    Eight policemen were also killed on Wednesday in an attack on a checkpoint in the southwest area of El-Arish, the capital of North Sinai. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISILor ISIS). 

    Police received reports that a group of fighters was "hiding in an olive grove south of El Arish," the ministry said in Friday's statement, adding that sweep operations were ongoing in the area.

    After being surrounded, "they opened heavy fire at the [security] forces, who responded by killing eight terrorists," it said, without specifying when the shoot-out occurred.

    190428081226023

    Five automatic rifles, an explosive device and two explosive belts were seized, the ministry added.

    On Thursday, Egyptian security forces killed 14 suspected fighters in response to the deadly checkpoint attack.

    In February 2018, the army launched a nationwide offensive against the armed groups, focussing mainly in North Sinai.

    The troubled hotspot has long been a centre of fighters affiliated with ISIL that Egypt has battled against.

    In a report released last month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Egyptian security forces have committed widespread abuses against civilians in northern Sinai Peninsula, some of which amount to war crimes.

    In a 134-page report, titled If You Are Afraid for Your Lives, Leave Sinai!, the rights group said it documented arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture, extrajudicial killings, forced evictions, and possibly unlawful air and ground attacks against civilians.

    "Some of these abuses, part of an ongoing campaign against members of the local ISIS affiliate, the 'Wilayat Sina' [Sinai Province group], amount to war crimes," the report said.

    The HRW report said armed fighters also committed crimes, including kidnapping and torture of residents, some of whom were killed. They have also killed and captured members of the security forces, the New York-based watchdog said.

    Conflict in Sinai escalated after the then-President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was toppled by the Egyptian military in 2013.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies