25 Egyptian policemen killed in Sinai Peninsula by rebels

KABUL: (MEP) – Egyptian security officials say suspected Islamist rebel’s ambushed two minibuses in northern Sinai Monday, killing 25 policemen, Fox News reported.

The officials say the attack took place as the two vehicles were driving through a village near the town of Rafah, located on the border of the Gaza Strip in the volatile Sinai Peninsula. According to authorities, the militants forced the two vehicles to stop and the policemen were ordered outside and made to lie down before they were shot execution-style. The officials said that the policemen were off-duty and in civilian clothes.

Initially, rocket-propelled grenades were believed to have been used in the attack. Egyptian state television also reported that the men were shot execution-style

The officials told the Associated Press the attack also left two policemen wounded. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Sinai has been witnessing almost daily attacks by suspected militants since the July 3 ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in a military coup. Egypt’s military and security forces have been engaged in a long 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. Militants have fired rockets into Israel and staged other cross-border attacks there on previous occasions.

The killings came one 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 detainees killed on Sunday were in a prison truck convoy of some 600 prisoners heading to Abu Zaabal prison in northern Egypt, security officials told The Associated Press. 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 authorized to speak to journalists.

However, the officials’ version of event contradicted reports about the incident carried by state media. The official website of state television reported that the deaths took place after security forces clashed with militants near the prison and detainees came under fire while trying to escape. The official MENA state news agency also said the trucks came under attack from gunmen.

State media also said the people killed and the gunmen belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist organization that Morsi hails from. The officials who spoke to AP said some of the detainees belonged to the Brotherhood, while others didn’t. The differences in the accounts could not be immediately reconciled.

The violence added to the ever-rising death toll in days of unrest.

Egypt’s military-backed interim government declared a state of emergency after Wednesday’s crackdown on the pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo and ensuing street clashes elsewhere in the capital and in other cities and towns across the country.

A curfew was also imposed, turning the capital of over 18 million people into a ghost town after 7 p.m. every night. The military-backed interim government that took over after Morsi’s ouster has also began taking harsher measures to cripple the Brotherhood.

Security forces arrested hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members early Sunday in raids on their homes in different cities, aimed at disrupting planned rallies to support Morsi. The Cabinet also held an emergency meeting to consider banning the group.

A possible ban — which authorities say would be implemented over the group’s use of violence — would be a repeat of the decades-long struggle between the state and the Brotherhood. It also would drain the group’s financial resources and allow for mass arrests of its members. That likely would diminish the chances of a negotiated solution to the crisis and push the group again underground.

The Brotherhood has shown no signs of backing down though.

Under the banner of an anti-coup alliance, the group held protests Sunday, though many appeared smaller in scale than others held in recent days. In the coastal city of Alexandria, protesters clashed with residents. In the southern city of Assiut, security forces fired tear gas to disperse hundreds rallying in front of a mosque.

“They think they can end the movement,” said Muslim Brotherhood senior member Saad Emara. “The more killings, the more people join us.”

However, the government blames Islamists for series of attacks on churches and police stations, increasing public anger against the group.

In his first appearance since the violence began, el-Sissi spoke at length in an hour-long speech about the motives behind ousting Morsi. The general said the Islamist president exploited democracy to monopolize power. He again said the military’s action “protected Egyptians from civil war,” despite the ongoing violence on the streets.

“We will not stand by silently watching the destruction of the country and the people or the torching the nation and terrorizing the citizens,” el-Sissi said in a speech aired on state television. “I am not threatening anyone. … If the goal is to destroy the country and the people, no!”

The general said that the military didn’t seek power but instead “have the honor to protect the people’s will — which is much dearer (than) ruling Egypt.”

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