Egyptian F-16 fighter jet crashes in troubled Sinai region, killing pilot

Egyptian F-16 fighter jet crashes in troubled Sinai region, killing pilot
A F-16 fighter jet has crashed in Egypt's restive Sinai peninsula, where IS-affiliated militants have based their insurgency.
2 min read
14 January, 2020
Scores of troops were deployed to try to recover the pilot's body [Getty]

An Egyptian fighter jet crashed during military drills in the Sinai Peninsula on Wednesday, killing its pilot, an army spokesman said.

Colonel Tamer Al-Rifai did not specify details but said that an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident had been launched.

"During training exercises conducted by the Egyptian Air Force on 14/1/2020, a military aircraft went down, resulting in the death of its pilot," Al-Rifia wrote on Egyptian Armed Forces Facebook page.

"We are now working to uncover what led the crash."

Local sources told Al-Jazeera that the F-16 fighter jet went down south of city of Rafah, in Egypt's northern Sinai province, adding that the cause remained unclear.

Sources also reported large troops deployed to the crash site, from nearby Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid military bases, to try to recover the pilot's body.

Clashes had erupted between Islamic State group affiliated militia and Egyptian soldiers on the ground in Rafah, near the alleged crash site, according to AlJazeera

Egypt has been fighting an IS insurgency in North Sinai, led by the "Wilayat Sinai" militant group since 2013.

They have been accused of numerous attacks on security forces, killing hundreds of police and soldiers.

In February 2018, the army and police launched a nationwide operation against the militants, mostly focused on the restive desert region.

Read more: Soldier killed in coordinated Islamic State attacks in Egypt's Sinai

The death toll of suspected militants stands at over 830, while around 60 security personnel have lost their lives, since the state of the current offensive.

Yet the operation has been the subject of scorn as authorities continue to violate the rights of Sinai residents who say innocent people have been detained and executed without trail.

Human Rights Watch investigation (HRW) has uncovered rampant right abuses sanctioned by Egyptian security forces, including communication blackouts, arbitrary closures of schools and universities and the restriction of movement of people and vital goods through checkpoints.

Over 3,000 homes and commercial properties belonging to Sinai resident have been destroyed as part of the state’s anti-terror strategy.

HRW has called it a "self-defeating security plan" that "inflict[s] pain on Sinai residents".

Following the death of IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdad in November last year, the group’s North Sinai affiliate has pledged allegiance to his successor, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi Al-Quraishi.

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