Egypt kills 40 in raids af­ter tour bus bombed

The Sun News (Sunday) - - News - BY MO­HAMED EZZ

Egyp­tian se­cu­rity forces killed at least 40 peo­ple sus­pected of be­ing mil­i­tants in North Si­nai and Giza, of­fi­cials said Sat­ur­day, a day af­ter an ex­plo­sion hit a tour bus, leav­ing four peo­ple dead and 10 oth­ers wounded.

The Min­istry of In­te­rior did not ex­plic­itly link the killing of the sus­pected mil­i­tants to the at­tack on the tour bus Fri­day, in which an im­pro­vised de­vice hid­den in a wall less than 21⁄ miles from the 2 pyra­mids at Giza ex­ploded and killed three Viet­namese tourists and their Egyp­tian guide.

The min­istry said in a state­ment that se­cu­rity forces had learned that “a num­ber of ter­ror­ists” had “planned a se­ries of at­tacks that tar­gets state in­sti­tu­tions, tourism, armed forces, po­lice, and Chris­tian places of wor­ship.”

The se­cu­rity forces si­mul­ta­ne­ously raided two sites on the out­skirts of Giza on Sat­ur­day, killing 30 mil­i­tants there, as well as an­other refuge in Ar­ish in North Si­nai, killing 10 more in shootouts.

The min­istry also pub­lished pho­tos of the dead with their faces blurred and weapons ly­ing be­side them.

Sev­eral at­tacks have threat­ened to wreck the coun­try’s tourist in­dus­try, with mil­i­tants hit­ting pop­u­lar tourist sites like the Kar­nak tem­ple in Luxor, which was at­tacked in 2015. Mil­i­tants have also tar­geted churches in re­cent years, and of­fi­cials have scram­bled to counter the as­saults.

Egypt’s mil­i­tary and po­lice forces have been wag­ing a se­ries of ma­jor cam­paigns against mil­i­tant groups since at least 2013, tar­get­ing the Si­nai Penin­sula as well as ar­eas in the south and near the bor­der with Libya.

In Jan­uary 2016, mil­i­tants stormed a ho­tel in the Egyp­tian Red Sea re­sort of Hurghada, stab­bing and wound­ing Eu­ro­pean tourists. In De­cem­ber that year, the Is­lamic State group claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity af­ter a bomb ripped through Cairo’s main Cop­tic cathe­dral dur­ing Sun­day morn­ing Mass, killing dozens. A year later, gun­men launched a deadly at­tack on the Mar Mina Church in the south­ern Cairo neigh­bor­hood of Hel­wan.

In Novem­ber of this year, the Is­lamic State said it was be­hind the deadly shoot­ing of Cop­tic Chris­tian pil­grims on two buses.

But dur­ing the raids against mil­i­tants by Egyp­tian se­cu­rity forces, the govern­ment has been ac­cused of con­duct­ing ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings.

In March 2017, Hu­man Rights Watch ac­cused Egypt’s se­cu­rity forces of the ex­tra­ju­di­cial ex­e­cu­tions of at least four peo­ple in Jan­uary that year. “The se­cu­rity forces may have ar­bi­trar­ily de­tained and forcibly dis­ap­peared the men and then staged a coun­tert­er­ror­ism raid to cover up the killings,” the agency said.

In Jan­uary 2017, the In­te­rior Min­istry said that its coun­tert­er­ror­ism forces had tracked a group of sus­pected Is­lamic State fighters and were pre­par­ing to raid the house when they came un­der fire.

Ac­cord­ing to the min­istry, the troops re­turned fire and killed all 10 sus­pects in­side. The min­istry named six of the dead men and ac­cused them of par­tic­i­pat­ing in killings and other at­tacks on se­cu­rity forces, some of which had been claimed by the Is­lamic State.

That same day, the min­istry also re­leased a short video pur­port­ing to show the raid. The heav­ily edited clip shows se­cu­rity forces ap­proach­ing a build­ing, two of them fir­ing at a man on the ground out­side, and six dead men in civil­ian clothes ly­ing in rooms in­side the build­ing, sur­rounded by weapons, fresh pools of blood and walls filled with bul­let holes.

A Hu­man Rights Watch in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­ly­ing on mul­ti­ple sources – in­clud­ing doc­u­ments, in­ter­views with rel­a­tives and the of­fi­cial video of the pur­ported raid – sug­gested that po­lice had ar­rested some of the men months be­fore the gun­fight was said to have oc­curred and that the raid had been staged.

“Th­ese ap­par­ent ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings re­veal to­tal im­punity for Egypt’s se­cu­rity forces in the Si­nai Penin­sula un­der Pres­i­dent Ab­del-Fat­tah el-Sissi’s coun­tert­er­ror­ism poli­cies,” said Joe Stork, deputy Mid­dle East and North Africa di­rec­tor at Hu­man Rights Watch.

De­spite the crit­i­cism, the Egyp­tian govern­ment never opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The rights agency’s web­site was blocked in the coun­try one day af­ter the or­ga­ni­za­tion re­leased a re­port al­leg­ing sys­tem­atic tor­ture in the coun­try’s jails.

Most re­cently, dur­ing a World Youth Fo­rum or­ga­nized at the Sharm el Sheikh re­sort in Egypt, el-Sissi con­demned the ac­cu­sa­tions.

“In 2013, sev­eral churches have been at­tacked and many died,” he said. “We had two cour­ses of ac­tion: ei­ther to bring per­pe­tra­tors to jus­tice or take ex­tra­ju­di­cial ac­tion. We walked the path of law, and when the court or­dered death sen­tences, we faced ac­cu­sa­tions of ag­gres­sive ju­di­ciary.”

Viet­namese Em­bassy

The Viet­namese am­bas­sador to Egypt vis­its an in­jured Viet­namese tourist at a hos­pi­tal in Cairo on Fri­day. A bomb hit a tourist bus near the Giza Pyra­mids, killing three Viet­namese and their Egyp­tian guide, of­fi­cials said.

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