CAIRO (Ma’an) -- The Egyptian army said that it had killed five gunmen and detained 16 suspects in the Sinai Peninsula on Sunday.
Egyptian army spokesperson Tamer al-Rifai said in statement that the five slain individuals were “extremely dangerous” gunmen, and that the 16 detained were allegedly affiliated with the Sinai Province militant group.
Al-Rifai added that the army had also destroyed a vehicle and two explosive devices owned by the group, as well as seized an automatic rifle and 80 bullets.
Fighting between the Egyptian government and the Sinai Province -- previously known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis -- 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.
Egyptian authorities said at the time that the men were targeted for participating in killings and other attacks on security forces.
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 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.