Militants kill 8 Egyptian police in North Sinai

North Sinai is a hotbed of a years-long insurgency by militants, some linked to Daesh. (Reuters/ File photo)
Updated 05 June 2019
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Militants kill 8 Egyptian police in North Sinai

  • Two militants who were killed managed to hijack two Egyptian tanks
  • Egypt has for years been battling North Sinai insurgents affiliated with Daesh

CAIRO: Militants killed eight Egyptian policemen at a checkpoint in the Sinai Peninsula Wednesday.

The northeastern region is the hotbed of a years-long insurgency by militants, some linked to Daesh, who have regularly hit security forces.

“Terrorist elements targeted a checkpoint west of El-Arish early this morning... The exchange of fire killed five terrorist elements and eight police were martyred,” the interior ministry said.

Some militants escaped and security forces are following their movements, it said in a statement.

Two of the militants who were killed first managed to hijack two tanks belonging to the Central Security Forces, a force under the interior ministry’s control.

But a military plane destroyed one and security forces killed the other militant in a shootout, a security source told AFP, providing photos of the charred tanks.

The source said reinforcements had been deployed to the checkpoint near El-Arish, capital of North Sinai province.

“The checkpoint is currently surrounded by the army and police,” he said.

Three members of the Central Security Forces were also wounded in the attack and taken to El-Arish public hospital, a medical source told AFP.

Egyptian state television said there were fears the death toll could rise, amid reports of attacks on multiple checkpoints.

It also broadcast still images it said were of the slain attackers.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry condemned the attack on a checkpoint in the Sinai Peninsula on Wednesday, and expressed condolences to the families of those killed. 

The Kingdom also said it stands with Egypt in the country’s fight against terrorism. 

Egyptian social media users paid tribute to the policemen killed as Muslims marked the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

“It's very hard for a mother, waiting for her son to ring her and send her Eid greetings, to receive a call that he has been killed,” prominent actor Mahmoud Al-Bezzawy wrote on Twitter.

The interior ministry did not release the identities of the slain officers.

Egypt has for years been battling North Sinai insurgents affiliated with Daesh.

Hundreds of police officers and soldiers have been killed in militant attacks, which surged after the removal from power in 2013 of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi.

Police raids in May killed 16 suspected militants in North Sinai.

The interior ministry said last month it had intelligence that militants were planning attacks on “important and vital facilities,” as well as prominent figures in El-Arish.

In late 2017, North Sinai was the scene of the deadliest extremist attack in Egypt’s modern history when militants killed more than 300 worshippers at a mosque, without any group claiming responsibility.

President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has presented himself as a bulwark against terrorism and a rock of political stability in a region hit by turmoil.

In February 2018, the army launched a nationwide offensive against the extremists focused mainly on the North Sinai.

According to official figures, around 650 militants have been killed since the start of the operation, while the army has lost some 50 soldiers.

Last month, a roadside bomb hit a tourist bus near Egypt’s famed Giza pyramids, wounding several passengers including South Africans.

The attack dealt another blow to the North African country’s efforts to revive its key tourism industry after years of turmoil.

Authorities have gone at great lengths to lure tourists back, touting enhanced security at stadiums and airports.

The country is set to host the African Cup of Nations later this month, although most matches will take place well away from the troubled North Sinai region.


Retired Lebanese soldiers in tense standoff with army during benefit cuts protest

Updated 19 July 2019
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Retired Lebanese soldiers in tense standoff with army during benefit cuts protest

  • Dressed in military uniforms, large numbers of veterans attempted to force their way through barricades set up to stop demonstrators reaching the city’s parliament building where a final vote on a controversial draft austerity budget was taking place
  • The meeting to vote on the 2019 draft budget came after a marathon three days of discussions

BEIRUT: Retired Lebanese soldiers on Friday came close to clashing with the country’s army when weeks of protests over planned benefit cuts reached boiling point in the capital Beirut.
Dressed in military uniforms, large numbers of veterans attempted to force their way through barricades set up to stop demonstrators reaching the city’s parliament building where a final vote on a controversial draft austerity budget was taking place.
A military source told Arab News that the Lebanese army leadership had decided to block access to Najma Square, in Beirut’s Central District, where Parliament members were sitting.
But former soldiers, joined by the parents of army martyrs and activists from the Sabaa and Communist parties, surrounded the building in nearby streets before attempting to push through barbed wire, concrete and metal barriers erected by the Lebanese army and the Internal Security Forces.
The protesters, waving Lebanese and army flags, got as far as the entrance to Maarad Street, on which Parliament is located, putting them in direct confrontation with the Lebanese troops.
Ten brigades of reinforcements were drafted in to help push back the veterans before protest leaders eased tensions by calling for a retreat to a nearby square to avoid any further clashes.
The meeting to vote on the 2019 draft budget came after a marathon three days of discussions. Before entering the parliamentary session, Lebanese Minister of Defense Elias Bou Saab said that “misleading the retired soldiers” would be “harmful to the image and demands of the protesters” and called on them to carry out “peaceful demonstrations.” He added that there had been mixed and confused messages regarding benefit cuts.
However, retired Brig. Gen. Georges Nader had vowed that protesters would not back off until the vote on their benefits was dropped.
Discussing the protests in Parliament, Samy Gemayel, president of the Phalange party, objected to the reduction in the army budget, to which Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said: “This has been concluded on the bases of an understanding with the army and the military establishment.”
MP Paula Yacoubian said that “retired soldiers are trying to storm Parliament,” to which Berri said: “Those who want to storm Parliament have not yet been born.”
The row had centered on a controversial article concerning amendments to the country’s income tax act, and Lebanese Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil insisted on defending it. He said: “It does not cost the retired soldiers, for instance, more than 3,000 Lebanese pounds ($2) per month. This amount rises to 400,000 pounds for brigadiers.” He added: “Which country in the world gives a retiree 85 percent of his salary?”
After a meeting between the minister and Nader in Parliament, the retired brigadier general went out to reassure the veterans that cuts from their salaries in respect of medicine and income tax would be reduced. Less intense protests continued for more than three hours before Parliament approved the relevant article in the budget.
Meanwhile, Berri had started the Parliament session by reading a resignation submitted by Hezbollah MP Nawaf Musawi.