Egypt says it’s destroyed 31 tunnels, killed 32 in Sinai security sweep

 

McClatchy Newspapers

Egyptian officials announced Saturday that their first major military offensive into Sinai since the inauguration of President Mohammed Morsi led to the deaths of 32 “criminals,” the destruction of 31 tunnels used for smuggling and coordination between Israelis and Egyptians.

The news conference itself was notable, an apparent effort by the government to be more transparent after months in which the military council that governed after the fall of Hosni Mubarak rarely explained its actions. A month ago, Morsi fired the key members of that council, and on Saturday, armed forces spokesman Ahmed Mohammed Ali vowed to answer reporters’ questions. He even offered an email address, unusual in a nation that’s been led historically by an opaque government.

The rise of Islamist groups in the Sinai has become a source of concern for both the Egyptian government and Israel since Mubarak was ousted, but it was a raid last month in which 16 Egyptian troops died that sparked the current Egyptian crackdown.

Ali stressed that Egypt has coordinated its current operations with Israel, which had expressed concern that the Egyptian use of so-called heavy brigades in the Sinai violated the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace agreement.

“Using armed forces throughout Sinai is not considered to be a violation to the peace treaty,” he said. “We respect all our international agreements without compromising Egypt’s national security.” Coordinating with Israel, he added, “benefits all.”

Ali said the current Egyptian operation has as its goal to eradicate criminal gangs operating in the Sinai, where criminal and terrorist activity have been the norm for decades.

In addition to the 32 killed, Ali said another 38 were arrested. Of those, 20 were released. He estimated there are as many as 600 criminals operating in the area.

In addition, there are roughly 225 tunnels, which are used to smuggle weapons, supplies, food and ammunition to neighboring Gaza. Ali said troops had seized rockets, RPGs, and arms from the tunnels, but did not provide details of how many. He said the Army had seized 20 cars used by criminal elements.

Ali said that once the military operation ends, the government hopes to invest more than $200 million in a Sinai development project. Sinai residents have long complained that the government in Cairo has done little to improve living conditions there.

Ismail is a McClatchy special correspondent. Email: Egypt@mcclatchydc.com

Read more World Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
A Malaysia Airlines crew member holds flowers as she waits outside Bunga Raya Complex at Kuala Lumpur International Airport where victims' bodies of the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 are scheduled to be flown back, in Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, Aug. 22, 2014.

    Malaysia receives bodies from Flight 17 crash

    The bodies and ashes of 20 Malaysians killed when Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over Ukraine in July have arrived in Kuala Lumpur.

  • Mexico increases number of missing to 22,322

    The Mexican government has increased its calculation of the number of people who have disappeared since the start of the country's drug war in 2006 and now lists 22,322 as missing, officials said Thursday. It had said in May that 8,000 people were missing.

  • Mexico nabs suspects with 10,000 sea turtle eggs

    Environmental prosecutors in Mexico say three suspects have been detained in the southern Pacific coast state of Oaxaca with more than 10,000 illegally harvested eggs from protected sea turtles.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category