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Egyptian sources: Islamic State militants blow up transmission towers in Sinai

Jan. 22, 2017 12:18 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 22, 2017 5:21 P.M.)
CAIRO (Ma'an) -- Egyptian security sources told Ma'an that militants connected to the so-called Islamic State under the local affiliate group the Sinai Province blew up two transmission towers in the Sinai Peninsula on Saturday evening, while in northern Sinai two Egyptian policemen were reportedly injured during clashes with unidentified gunmen.

Security sources told Ma'an that Sinai Province militants planted two explosive devices under the transmission towers in the Red Sea coastal area of Oyoun Moussa south of the Suez canal.

The militants had arrived covertly from central Sinai and detonated the devices, according to the sources. Egyptian forces then deployed in the area as technical teams started to rebuild the towers, which feed a power line that supplies electricity to Jordan.

Separately, Egyptian state-owned news agency MENA reported that at least two policemen were injured Saturday in clashes between security forces and unknown militants in the northern Sinai city of al-Arish.

MENA said that the “terrorist elements” opened fire on a police contingent during a security raid, leading to major clashes with heavy gunfire as police forces responded, in a report so far unconfirmed by Egypt's Interior Ministry.

Last Monday, sources said that a Palestinian was killed and two Egyptians were injured after a bomb exploded in front of an auto shop in al-Arish, with the coastal city reportedly being targeted by a suicide bombing a week prior.

Meanwhile, last Friday, Egyptian forces killed at least 10 Egyptian youths in al-Arish, who Egyptian forces claimed were responsible for carrying out “terror attacks” over the previous days in the town.

However, days later, Al-Jazeera reported that residents in al-Arish were accusing the state of carrying out "extrajudicial killings," saying that six of the slain youths named by the Egyptian Ministry of Interior had been detained months ago by Egyptian authorities.

Fighting between the Egyptian government and the Sinai Province has escalated since Egyptian President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi took power from Muhammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013.

The Egyptian president came under attack following his violent suppression of Muslim Brotherhood members following his rise to power, which al-Sisi has argued is necessary to deter future attacks in the Sinai and across Egypt.

Al-Sisi said earlier this month that 25,000 soldiers were deployed in northern Sinai to fight the militants, a previously undisclosed figure that seemed to underline the magnitude of the conflict.

According to a report from Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Egyptian government said that its counterterrorism operations in North Sinai killed at least 3,091 “terrorists” between January and July 2015, with HRW noting that the government did not allow independent observers into the area of fighting and did not acknowledge any civilian deaths in the Sinai, while the Egyptian government has barred journalists from reporting on events in Sinai.

Amid the violence, Egyptian authorities have also been accused of heavy-handed tactics, including collective punishment following deadly attacks, by imposing curfews and a state of emergency, and even ordering the destruction of hundreds of homes skirting Sinai’s border with the besieged Gaza Strip.
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