Egypt says of­fi­cers fa­tally shot 16 gun­men, most of them fugi­tive mil­i­tants

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION - BY OMAR FAHMY AND HAITHAM AHMED

cairo — The death toll keeps ris­ing in Egypt’s con­flict with Is­lamist mil­i­tants.

On Satur­day, Egypt’s In­te­rior Min­istry said po­lice of­fi­cers had fa­tally shot 16 gun­men in two shootouts, adding that most of those killed were fugi­tive mil­i­tants linked to re­cent at­tacks on se­cu­rity forces in the North­ern Si­nai Penin­sula.

Egypt faces an Is­lamist in­sur­gency led by the Is­lamic State group on the penin­sula, where hun­dreds of sol­diers and po­lice have been killed since 2013.

At least 23 sol­diers were killed Fri­day when sui­cide car bombs tore through two mil­i­tary check­points in the re­gion in an at­tack claimed by the Is­lamic State. The as­sault was one of the blood­i­est on se­cu­rity forces in years. The Is­lamic State posted a state­ment on­line late Fri­day say­ing it car­ried out the at­tack as the army was pre­par­ing to at­tack mil­i­tant po­si­tions in the ter­ri­tory bor­der­ing Gaza and Is­rael.

In Satur­day’s con­fronta­tion, the In­te­rior Min­istry said gun­men opened fire on po­lice as they ap­proached a desert train­ing camp for mil­i­tants in Is­mailia, a city on the west bank of the Suez Canal.

The of­fi­cers re­turned fire, killing 14 mil­i­tants, five of whom have been iden­ti­fied so far.

The camp was used to sub­ject re­cruits “to mil­i­tary train­ing pro­grams on the use of var­i­ous types of firearms and man­u­fac­ture ex­plo­sive de­vices . . . ,” a min­istry state­ment said.

In a sep­a­rate state­ment, the min­istry said its forces killed two men de­scribed as fugi­tive ter­ror­ists in an ex­change of gun­fire in the city of Giza, near Cairo.

The men, who were in an apart­ment, opened fire on se­cu­rity forces as soon as the of­fi­cers ap­proached to ar­rest them, it said.

The state­ment said the pair were mem­bers of a newly emerged mil­i­tant group called Hasm, which claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the killing of a home­land se­cu­rity of­fi­cer out­side his home in Qa­lyu­bia, a prov­ince just north of Cairo, while on his way to prayers on Fri­day.

Hasm has claimed sev­eral at­tacks around Cairo tar­get­ing judges and po­lice of­fi­cers since last year.

Other mil­i­tant groups such as Hasm, which the gov­ern­ment says are linked to the Mus­lim Brother­hood, are ac­tive in Cairo and other cities, where they have tar­geted se­cu­rity forces, judges and pro-gov­ern­ment fig­ures.

The Brother­hood was out­lawed in 2013 af­ter the mil­i­tary ousted one of its lead­ers, Mo­hamed Morsi from the pres­i­dency fol­low­ing mass protests. It main­tains that it is a peace­ful or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Is­lamic State has also in­ten­si­fied at­tacks on se­cu­rity forces and Cop­tic Chris­tian civil­ians in the main­land in re­cent months, killing about 100 Copts since De­cem­ber.

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