Egypt kills 40 in raids after tour bus bombed
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.”
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.