CAIRO (Ma’an) -- Three Egyptian army officers and seven Egyptian soldiers were killed after clashes erupted with between the Egyptian army and armed militia groups during a military raid in in the central Sinai Peninsula.
A statement by the Egyptian army said that army forces raided an “extremely dangerous terrorist spots” in the Sinai, where fire was exchanged with armed groups, leading to the death of 15 armed gunmen and the detention of seven others.
The statement added that two explosive devices hit two Egyptian military vehicles, causing the death of three Egyptian officers and seven soldiers.
During the raid, the statement said, Egyptian forces uncovered and destroyed two warehouses where more than a half ton of ammonium nitrate was stored, along with a large quantity of explosive devices, TNT, medical equipment, and military surveillance equipment.
Forces also seized two vehicles filled with grenades, ammunition, “flags of terrorist groups,” 460 laptops, 640 cell phones, solar energy panels and car license plates, the statement said.
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, and has since left hundreds killed -- including civilians, security forces, and alleged militants.
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.
The killing of the 15 alleged militants came after Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report saying that Egyptian internal security forces “may have extrajudicially executed at least four and perhaps as many as 10 men,” during a deadly raid on Jan. 13.
Egyptian authorities said at the time that the men were targeted for participating in killings and other attacks on security forces, and named six of the slain men, but did not identify the other four.
Investigations conducted by HRW indicated that Egyptian security forces “may have arbitrarily detained and forcibly disappeared the men and then staged a counter terrorism raid to cover up the killings.”
The group meanwhile highlighted that journalists and human rights groups are rarely able to investigate frequent and credible reports of abuse because the government denies them access to the region.
The January killings sparked rare protests in al-Arish against the Egyptian Interior Ministry during some of the men’s funerals.
Local leaders have have since demanded
the immediate release of anyone held without charge, the resignation of North Sinai’s representatives in parliament, holding to account those responsible for the killings, and called for the creation of a government fact-finding committee to investigate the incident.