JOHANNESBURG – A prominent leader of the Islamic State-affiliated Beit Al Maqdisi militant group has been killed, together with four other members of the organisation also known as Sinai Province, following a raid by the Egyptian army in North Sinai.
An Egyptian military statement released on Sunday did not name the leader, nor provide any further information on the militants killed.
However, a picture posted with the statement showed what appeared to be the body of a dead man with an assault rifle, the Egyptian daily Al Ahram reported.
Sunday’s deaths followed a militant attack last week that left 10 soldiers dead, including three senior officers.
The Egyptian military has been fighting a deadly insurgency in the restive Sinai province since 2013, following the military coup that overthrew former Muslim Brotherhood leader, and Egypt’s first-ever democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, who won 2012’s presidential elections.
The militants have not only killed security personnel, but also politicians and civilians, with Coptic Christians specifically targeted in the town of Al Arish in the Sinai. Hundreds have been killed on both sides of the insurgency.
The Sinai Province has claimed responsibility for most of the attacks in North Sinai.
The militant group, which originated in Sinai, last year pledged allegiance to the IS and its leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi.
Meanwhile, an Egyptian court on Sunday sentenced 56 people to jail sentences, ranging from two to 13 years, over a 2016 migrant boat capsizing off Egypt’s Mediterranean coast which left approximately 200 people dead.
The convicted defendants, who can still appeal their sentences, were found guilty of manslaughter, negligence, endangering lives, and using an unlicensed vessel with inadequate rescue equipment.
The boat, with several hundred people on board from a variety of different countries, was heading from the Egyptian port city of Rosetta to Italy when it capsized 12 kilometres off the Egyptian coast.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi ratified a law in November last year aimed at curbing irregular migration and cracking down on human smuggling.
Those involved in smuggling the migrants, or helping broker the smuggling, are sentenced to jail terms. The migrants are not prosecuted.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 5,000 migrants are thought to have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea in 2016, a record figure the organisation described as “a devastating milestone”.
African News Agency