The Egyptian military killed dozens of “very dangerous” Islamist militants this weekend following a series of shootouts in northern Sinai, military officials announced on Monday.
In February 2018, the Egyptian military launched a campaign to eradicate Islamist groups with the help of Israeli troops, including the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda, from the Sinai region.
“Over the last period the campaign has resulted in the elimination of 46 very dangerous members of terrorist elements during exchanges of fire in the north and central Sinai,” officials said in a video message, without providing details of the timings or locations of such operation.
The statement added three Egyptian soldiers were killed in the operation. The military also arrested around 100 suspects, while they also found over 200 explosive devices and destroyed 30 confiscated cars and scooters confiscated.
Terrorist groups in Egypt have grown in size and strength since the removal of President Mohamed Morsi in 2013, who resigned in response to mass demonstrations against his regime. The Sinai Peninsula remains a stronghold for most of these organizations, with 850 militants and over 35 soldiers have been killed in the region as a result of anti-terrorist operations.
However, human rights groups accuse the Egyptian military of carrying out extrajudicial executions and of prosecuting civilians in military courts as part of the crackdown, as well as using terrorism as a guise for silencing all political opposition.
“The Egyptian government and state media have framed this repression under the guise of combating terrorism, and al-Sisi has increasingly invoked terrorism and the country’s state of emergency law to silence peaceful activists,” notes Human Rights Watch. “In North Sinai, where government forces have been fighting an ISIS-affiliated group called Sinai Province (Wilayat Sinai), the army committed flagrant abuses of residents’ rights that amount in certain cases to collective punishment.”
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has repeatedly played down allegations of human rights abuses, arguing that such measures are necessary for stabilizing the country and winning the broader fight against Islamic terrorism.
“You are not going to teach us about humanity,” he declared at a news conference in Europe last month. “We have our own sense of humanity, values, and ethics, and you have your own idea of humanity and ethics, and we respect it. Respect our values and ethics, as we do yours.”