The commander of Al-Zahor military camp situated north of Sheikh Zuweid in North Sinai purportedly distributed a written statement in which he praised the efforts exerted by Sheikh Zuwaid’s inhabitants in facing terrorism and informed them that the army would release the names of five people believed to be pro-army militants as they had committed violations against inhabitants of the city while representing the army, according to residents’ testimonies.
Daily News Egypt spoke to several residents of Sheikh Zuweid who asserted, on condition of anonymity, that state security forces in North Sinai have formulated militias made up of citizens inside the city in order to guide them to terrorist stationing points in the desert as part of the campaigns launched by security forces.
“The story of pro-army militias appeared when an army operator from El-Shawtra tribe was revealed by Islamic State (IS) affiliated militants from ‘Sinai Province’. This operator was slaughtered, and some of his relatives in the tribe decided to take revenge by cooperating with the army during security campaigns. The army decided to include them in campaigns and provide them weapons. They were known as ‘Death Group no.103’,” said one Sheikh Zuweid resident who received a copy of the written statement.
Military sources, who refused to reveal their identity, denied on Wednesday what was raised regarding the statement, arguing that no statements are being issued except from the military spokesperson’s official Facebook page.
“No army officer or commander can issue a statement. The only one authorised to do so is the military spokesperson. These are part of rumours circulated to destroy Sinai residents’ confidence in us,” the sources clarified.
“Death Group no.103” began as a group of 10 and increased after the army decided to increase their number. They act exactly as army forces, forming checkpoints, and using army vehicles in inspections. Several violations were recorded including the killing of three members from Al-Sawarka tribe that had been in dispute with El-Shawtra tribe from which the group appeared.
The commander of Al-Zahor camp distributed this written statement to disown five “Death Group no.103” members who were involved in these violations, a member of Al-Sawarka tribe said on condition of anonymity.
“First of all, we thank Sheikh Zuweid residents for their great efforts exerted in fighting terrorism besides the army. From our care not to be used as a means for oppression, we decided to withdraw the confidence granted to these five for abuses they committed against citizens: Ebrahim Hammad, Hussein Ahmed Shaweetr, Mohamed Al Hendi, Mahmoud Shawteer and Mahmoud Ali,” read the written statement issued from Al-Zahor.
“At the beginning of 2015, the army provided a number of young people in Sheikh Zuweid with weaponry. This group called themselves ‘Death Group no.103’. This group was acting like an army. Their activities multiplied from prospective operations in schools and public markets to arresting citizens, arguing that they are members of ‘Sinai Province’ and sent them to Al-Zahor military camp,” said one resident.
Daily News Egypt cannot verify the authenticity of the statement, but it received a copy of it from a resident in Sheikh Zuweid.
Earlier, the IS-affiliated group “Sinai Province” published a statement with a number of names related to residents of Sheikh Zuweid. These people were accused by the group of being army operators; the group had vowed to kill them. “These people were granted the right to sleep in the army’s camps as they were part of ‘Death Group no.103’,” added one resident.