Between death and kidnapping: fate of missing officer still unknown

Taha Sakr
7 Min Read
A 'State of Sinai' militant standing atop a tank at the site of the 24 October attack that killed at least 30 military personnel (Screenshot from 'State of Sinai' video)

The “Islamic State” (IS) affiliated group “Sinai Province” published a video on Friday, purporting to show their recent attack on Al-Safa security checkpoint on 19 March in Al-Arish.

The footage also showed several military training exercises carried out by members of the group. Entitled “Preparation of the defiant to defeat the tyrant”, the new video purported to show detailed scenes of the Al-Safa checkpoint attack and the group’s military preparations.

Several alleged members of “Sinai Province” appeared in the video undergoing military training, including storming buildings, checkpoints, fitness exercises, and drive-by shootings.

The video also showed militant members of the group monitoring the Al-Safa checkpoint before launching the attack.

The storming operation was shown to have been carried out using a truck carrying10 people who opened fire on the soldiers at the checkpoint as soon as they arrived there.

Footage showed that two people, believed to be from among the security forces guarding the checkpoint, escaped during the clashes.

Recent reports have surfaced of a police officer and a solider having reportedly gone missing in action following the deadly attack on Al-Safa checkpoint.

“I watched the new ‘Sinai Province’ video, but the footage was not clear enough to distinguish the identity of the two people who escaped during the attack. Until now, the Interior Ministry says sweeping operations are being undertaken to find my lost brother and the solider,” Ahmed Abdul Rehim, the brother of the missing police officer Mohamed Abdul Rehim, told Daily News Egypt on Saturday.

Ahmed had previously said his brother, a police officer, was among the forces at Al-Safa checkpoint, and that he spoke to Mohamed three hours before the attack, at which point he told him his shift was about to start.

On Saturday, the Ministry of Interior’s media office told Daily News Egypt that they do not have any information regarding the missing officer as of yet, adding that an official statement will be published once updates are received.

Last month, the Ministry of Interior’s media office gave Daily News Egypt a different narrative, saying that an official statement will be published in the state-run newspaper Al-Ahram denying any kidnapping. The missing police officer is believed by the ministry to be among the 15 killed.

The ministry insisted that Mohammed Abdul Rehim was killed, despite Ahmed saying that his brother’s body has not been returned to them, if this is indeed the case.

The Friday video also shows “Sinai Province” claiming responsibility for the January attack that targeted a police checkpoint in El-Atlawy square in Al-Arish. The attack left five dead and three injured among the police forces.

In related news, according to the Egyptian Observatory for Rights and Freedoms (EORF), women in North Sinai are being subjected to violations committed by police forces and army on a daily basis in Al-Arish and Sheikh Zuweid.

Violations against women at checkpoints were cited as one of the motivations behind the attack on Al-Safa checkpoint.

On Friday, the observatory published a detailed report in which it alleged that several cases were being monitored, including violations during inspections of Bedouin women at Al-Safa and Al-Ressa security checkpoints.

“Over the past two years, many violations took place against Bedouin women from the army and police forces. These violations included sexual violence and harassment during inspection, as well as direct shootings against them,” read the EORF report.

The report claimed that the women who were subjected to violations refused to file official complaints out of fear that knowledge of the violations would affect their reputation in their conservative Bedouin community.

However, the Ministry of Interior’s media office countered these allegations, claiming: “There are no inspection operations conducted on commuters and residents of North Sinai governorate.”

According to testimonies issued by a number of Bedouin women to EORF, such violations are common against them in army and police checkpoints that are stationed throughout the main roads in North Sinai governorate.

The EORF report indicated that officers and soldiers in El-Ressa and Al-Safa ask women to frisk themselves during inspections, a process largely described as demeaning in light of the relation between male guards and female citizens who are inspected, and degrading to Bedouin traditions.

The report also highlighted the occurrence of random shelling and shooting attacks against several Sinai women who work in fields or reside near security checkpoints.

On 28 March, a pregnant Bedouin woman was alleged to have been subjected to shooting from army forces inside the El-Tarabin district in Sheikk Zuwaid. The shooting resulted in injuring her with two bullets in her arm and belly, killing the foetus, according eyewitnesses’ testimonies to the EORF

A photograph of the dead foetus was circulated through several social media outlets, claiming that the mother was transferred to the hospital for emergency surgery.

Activists on several social media outlets have similarly alleged that violations are committed inside security checkpoints, whereby some inspection procedures are conducted in violation of the rules and traditions of North Sinai Bedouin tribes.

In response to inquiries about the status of alleged violations committed by army personnel in North Sinai, the Armed Forces spokesperson told Daily News Egypt that he is not entitled to respond to such questions without written permission from the Ministry of Defence.

Sinai has been the scene of frequent clashes between militants and state security forces in recent years. As a result, an extensive counter-insurgency operation was launched to curb militancy within Sinai. These operations have imposed a state of emergency in the northern regions of the peninsula.

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