Al-Azhar religious institution condemned on Friday the killings of truck drivers by militants in western Sinai last Thursday, according to a statement.
On Thursday, some videos and local reports asserted that around eight truck drivers working with factories affiliated with the armed forces were stopped and killed by militants suspected to be from the Sinai Province militant group.
Al-Azhar is the only governmental authority to comment or report on the incident. No statement from the army or the police has mentioned a death toll. However, local media reported that in Daqahiliya, separate funerals for three dead drivers took place.
“This vicious attack is a proof that its perpetrators have abandoned all humanistic values and have spread violence and destruction,” Al-Azhar said in the statement, asserting its support for the army and police in its fight against militancy.
Clashes between security forces and militants are commonly taking place in Sinai. Local media outlets reported that around 10 militants were killed in different attacks. Privately owned website Masrawy reported that “in revenge of the western Sinai martyrs, who included eight drivers, an officer, and a conscript, Air Forces used Apache helicopters to target four militants in a truck.”
The website added that in another incident, four militants were killed in Sheikh Zuwied.
Since 2013, state security forces, represented by both the army and the police, have been engaged in violent clashes with “Sinai Province”, a group previously known as Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis. In 2014, the group declared its affiliation with the Islamic State (IS) and has launched deadly attacks on army and police checkpoints.
Over the last two years, the Egyptian armed forces have launched counter-attacks against militants’ stationing points across the Sinai Peninsula, where the group is based in the cities of Sheikh Zuweid, Rafah, and Al-Arish.
A state of emergency in North Sinai was first declared in 2013 by then-interim president Adly Mansour, who came into power following the ouster of Morsi. It has been extended following this year’s extremist attacks on Coptic churches during Palm Sunday.