'Only' 30 militants killed in Sinai operations, says tribesman

'Only' 30 militants killed in Sinai operations, says tribesman
Few fighters have been killed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula since the military began counter-terrorism operations, contrary to official government numbers, a local sheikh has said.
3 min read
30 October, 2015
The military has claimed it has killed 535 militants in its Sinai operation [Getty]

The Egyptian military has killed dozens of militants in its ongoing military operations in North Sinai province, not the hundreds claimed by Cairo, a local tribal leader has alleged.

The military has claimed it killed 535 militants in the first two weeks of its ongoing Operation Haqq al-Shahid ["Martyr's Right"], which began on September 7.

The army often reports large death tolls among insurgents but they are nearly impossible to verify, and there has been little noticeable impact on the ability of the militants to carry out deadly attacks on security forces.

       33 soldiers were killed in an
attack in Arish last year [Getty]

"The number of militants killed can only be around 30, according to the eyewitness accounts and news I've received," a local tribal leader told al-Araby al-Jadeed's Arabic service.

"The militant group's top leaders have not been harmed - neither have its second and third tier commanders.

"Dozens of people have been killed in air raids or shot dead but most of them have been ordinary civilians not involved in the ongoing conflict," the sheikh added.

The tribal leader, who spoke under condition of anonymity, said it was impossible for the army to stop the influx of fighters into Sinai because the peninsula's rugged terrain has many remote smuggling routes used to bring in new militants and weapons.

Wilayat Sinai ["Sinai Province"], the IS franchise formerly known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, has killed hundreds of police officers and soldiers in North Sinai since the military overthrew Islamist President Mohammad Morsi in 2013.

The group, which aims to topple the government, has mainly focused on targets in Sinai but has claimed responsibility for attacks in Cairo, and in other provinces.

Military experts have warned that Wilayat Sinai has recently moved the bulk of its operations to the city of al-Arish, where it has targeted military vehicles with IEDs.

"The group has begun focusing its attacks in al-Arish, they are limited but highly effective because they suffer no losses in their IED attacks," said Talaat Muslim, a former military commander.

"This confirms that there are militants hiding out in al-Arish, which is dangerous and must be quickly addressed with so the city does not turn into Sheikh Zuweid," the military expert said.

A soldier was killed and five were injured late on Thursday, in a bomb attack on a military armoured vehicle west of al-Arish, according to al-Araby al-Jadeed's Arabic service.

The government announced on Wednesday that it had extended the state of emergency in Rafah, al-Arish, Sheikh Zuweid and their surrounding areas, as the military continued its counter-insurgency operations against Islamist militants.

The measure was first introduced a year ago after 33 security forces were killed in an attack at a checkpoint in northern Sinai. It was extended by three months in January, April, and July.