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Egyptian soldier shot dead, 8 militants killed in separate incidents in Sinai

March 27, 2017 12:00 P.M. (Updated: March 27, 2017 2:03 P.M.)
CAIRO (Ma’an) -- An Egyptian soldier was killed by a sniper at a military checkpoint in the city of Sheikh Zuweid in the northern Sinai Peninsula on Monday morning, Egyptian security sources said, hours after the Egyptian army claimed that Egyptian forces killed eight militants in the nearby city of Rafah.

According to the sources, a sniper allegedly affiliated to the so-called Islamic State group targeted a military checkpoint installed in Sheikh Zuweid, shooting and immediately killing 21-year-old Egyptian soldier Rida Sabri Muhammad with a bullet to the chest.

Separately, Egyptian army spokesperson Tamer al-Rifai said that overnight Sunday, Egyptian forces killed eight militants while thwarting an ambush attempt on Egyptian military vehicles in the city of Rafah, north east of Sheikh Zuweid along the border with the Gaza Strip.

Al-Rifai added in the statement that Egyptian forces were also able to detain 22 suspects accused of conducting terror attacks in Rafah and al-Arish during the raid.

The incidents came as the latest of a string of deadly encounters in North Sinai, amid an ongoing battle waged by the Egyptian government against an insurgency in the region, with Egyptian authorities holding the local affiliate of the Islamic State responsible for the majority of attacks.

Fighting between Egyptian forces 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.

Earlier this month, 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.

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.
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