Despite intensive security operations and the presence of the Egyptian Armed Forces across the North Sinai governorate, the kidnapping of civilians there has hit a new unprecedented high with four civilians taken from their residence in Al-Arish and Rafah cities in this week alone, several residents told Daily News Egypt Tuesday on condition of anonymity.
“Hamdy El-Abed El-Obaidat of El-Fawkharia tribe, a teacher in Emad El-Din school in Al-Arish city, was taken when a number of masked men broke into his residence [on Monday]. This happened in front of his wife and children,” one of the residents clarified.
Last Tuesday evening, Hossam Salah El-Solmeya was taken by anonymous militants near his residence on Assiut street in Al-Arish, said residents.
The militant group “Sinai Province” is targeting civilians who are allegedly known to be supporters of the ongoing operations against the militant group by the armed forces. The Islamic State (IS)-affiliated group is apparently forcing North Sinai citizens to declare their affiliation to the terrorist organisation.
A number of North Sinai residents told Daily News Egypt previously that civilians desperately need security protection as they are threatened daily by militants.
“Sinai Province” kidnaps those it suspects of being “army operators” through investigations conducted by the group. Once kidnapped, militants kill the civilians following harsh interrogations, either by shooting or slaughtering them. The bodies are often left in public squares. In the rare case that a person is proved to not be an “operator”, they may be released, according to previous testimonies from residents.
On Monday evening, south of Sheikh Zuweid city, an army lieutenant colonel was killed when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated as his armoured vehicle passed by during a security sweep, a North Sinai-based journalist told Daily News Egypt.
In the early hours of Tuesday morning, another IED was detonated, targeting an army vehicle and resulting in the injury of three officers and six conscripts, the journalist asserted.
Following the explosion, a number of militants opened fire on the injured conscripts and officers before the arrival of supportive forces which then confronted the militants and transferred the injured army personnel to Al-Arish military hospital, the journalist added.
The army’s media office was not available to verify the authenticity of the aforementioned attacks and has not released any related statement at the time of print.
Since 2013, state security forces represented in both the army and police have been engaged in violent clashes with “Sinai Province”, known previously as Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis. In 2014, the group declared its affiliation to IS and has launched deadly attacks on army and police checkpoints.
Over the course of the last two years, the Egyptian Armed Forces launched counterattacks against militant stationing points across the Sinai peninsula where the group is based, particularly in the cities of Sheikh Zuweid, Rafah, and Al-Arish in North Sinai.
Despite numerous statements issued by the armed forces on mass killings of militants, the group still represents a “chronic headache” to the current regime.