Gunmen target Egypt truck convoy, nine killed

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Updated 10 November 2017
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Gunmen target Egypt truck convoy, nine killed

CAIRO: Suspected militants shot dead at least nine truck drivers in Egypt’s Sinai region late on Thursday when they targeted a transport convoy, setting the vehicles on fire, medical and security sources said on Friday.
Egypt’s security forces have since 2014 been battling a Daesh affiliate in northern Sinai, where militants have mostly hit police and soldiers but also occasionally targeted infrastructure and businesses.
Two security sources in Al-Arish, the area capital, said armed men attacked the convoy, which was carrying coal to a cement factory.
The bodies of the truck drivers, all shot to death, were taken to the morgue of Suez public hospital, four medical sources said.
A military spokesman said there was no official statement. An interior ministry official did not respond to a request for information.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
“They have threatened us repeatedly, asking that we don’t work for the army’s companies. We informed the factory management of the threats and asked them for more protection,” one local truck driver, Ismail Abdel-Raouf, told Reuters.
Hundreds of police and soldiers have been killed since the insurgency quickened pace in northern Sinai after the 2013 ouster by the military of then-president Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood during massive protests against his rule.
A home-grown jihadist group, Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis, declared allegiance to Daesh in 2014 and has since tried to spread outside the peninsula by targeting Christians with attacks on churches on the mainland.
President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi, who presents himself as a bulwark against militants in the Middle East, has said Daesh fighters might try to enter Libya and Egypt after their defeats in Iraq and Syria.
Security forces have also faced attacks in the western desert region bordering Libya, where security sources say a former Egyptian special forces officer turned jihadist allied to Al-Qaeda was responsible for an ambush on a police operation last month.


Russia says ‘misled’ by Israel in plane downing over Syria

Updated 24 September 2018
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Russia says ‘misled’ by Israel in plane downing over Syria

MOSCOW: Russia’s military Sunday blamed “misleading” information from the Israeli airforce for the downing of one of its planes in Syria last week, and denounced the “adventurism” of Israeli pilots.
Israel strongly disputed the assertion and vowed it will continue to act against Iranian targets in neighboring Syria.
A Syrian air defense missile downed the Russian Ilyushin Il-20 military plane on September 17, killing all 15 soldiers aboard and threatening to damage relations between Russia and Israel, which three years ago set up a hotline to avoid accidental clashes in Syria.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to seek to move past the incident in spite of strong statements from the Russian military.
On Sunday, military spokesman Igor Konashenkov presented the results of an investigation.
Moscow has accused Israel’s fighter pilots of using the bigger Ilyushin as cover, causing Syria’s Soviet-era S-200 air defense system to interpret the Russian plane as a target.
Israel denied this version of events and its air force commander flew to Moscow following the incident, which Putin called the result of a “chain of tragic accidental circumstances.”
It was the deadliest known case of friendly fire between Syria and key backer Russia since Moscow’s game-changing 2015 military intervention.
Konashenkov said the Russian military received a call from Israeli command at 1839 GMT on the day of the incident to warn that Israel would be striking “north of Syria,” where the Il-20 surveillance aircraft was monitoring the Idlib de-escalation zone.
Russia ordered its plane back to base. Then, “one minute” after Israel’s call, its F-16 planes struck targets in Latakia in western Syria, he said.
“The misleading (information) by the Israeli officer regarding the location of the strikes made it impossible to guide the Il-20 to a safe location,” said Konashenkov.
As the Il-20 was landing near Latakia, one of the F-16 planes “began maneuvers” at 1859 GMT “getting closer to the Il-20,” which was interpreted as a repeat attack by the Syrian air defense and resulted in it being shot down, he said.
“Monitoring the Il-20, the Israeli fighters used it as cover from the anti-aircraft missiles” and continued to patrol the area long after the Russian plane was shot down, he said.
The Israeli pilots’ actions “either speak of their unprofessionalism or criminal negligence at the very least,” Konashenkov said, reiterating the Israeli airforce was fully responsible for the downing of the plane.
The “adventurism” of the Israeli military could have endangered civilian planes which use the same airspace to land at the nearby Hmeimim aerodrome, the officer said.
“This is a very ungrateful response to everything Russia has done for Israel.”
Israel’s military said in a statement its jets “did not hide behind any aircraft and that the Israeli aircraft were in Israeli airspace at the time of the downing of the Russian plane.”
It again offered condolences to Russia.
Israel says it was targeting a Syrian military facility where weapons manufacturing systems were “about to be transferred on behalf of Iran” to Lebanese group Hezbollah.
It has pledged to stop Iran, its main enemy, from entrenching itself militarily in the neighboring country and has carried out dozens of attacks on Iranian targets there.
Iranian-backed Hezbollah is also an enemy of Israel, which has carried out strikes in Syria to stop what it says are advanced arms deliveries to the group.