Suspected militants on Monday ambushed two mini-buses carrying off-duty policemen in Egypt’s northern Sinai Peninsula,killing 25 of them execution-style and wounding two,security officials said.
The killings,which took place near the border town of Rafah,compound Egypt’s woes a day after police fired tear gas to free a prison guard from rioting detainees,killing at least 36. The deaths of the 36 detainees and the 25 policemen take to nearly 1,000 the number of people killed in Egypt since Wednesday’s simultaneous assaults on two sit-in protest camps by supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.
The militants forced the two vehicles to stop,ordered the policemen out and forced them to lie on the ground before they shot them to death during today’s attack in Sinai,the officials said. The policemen were in civilian clothes,said the officials,speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to the media.
The deaths yesterday of the prisoners,who were captured during clashes the past couple of days around Cairo’s central Ramses Square,came as military chief Gen. Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi vowed the military would stand firm in the face of the rising violence but also called for the inclusion of Islamists in the post-Morsi political process.
There was initial confusion over how the Sinai ambush had happened,and the officials at first said the policemen were killed when the militants fired rocket-propelled grenades at the two minibuses carrying the men. Such confusion over details in the immediate aftermath of attacks is common. Egyptian state television also reported that the men were killed execution-style.
Sinai,a strategic region bordering the Gaza Strip and Israel,has been witnessing almost daily attacks since Morsi’s July 3 ouster in a military coup. Military and security forces have been engaged in a long-running battle against militants in the northern half of the peninsula. Militants and tribesmen have used the area for smuggling and other criminal activity for years and have on occasion fired rockets into Israel and staged cross-border attacks.
The detainees killed yesterday were in a prison truck convoy of some 600 prisoners heading to Abu Zaabal prison in northern Egypt,security officials said. Detainees in one of the trucks rioted and managed to capture a police officer inside,the officials said.
Security forces fired tear gas into the truck in hopes of freeing the badly beaten officer,the officials said. The officials said those killed died from suffocating from the gas. Those officials also spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to journalists.