Abducted police officer Ayman Al-Sayed Al-Desouky was found dead Tuesday morning in North Sinai, according to the military spokesman’s Tuesday statement.
Al-Desouky was abducted Sunday evening in Rafah by militants while on his way to work.
Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat has ordered a media gag on the case and investigations related to the incident.
The incident delayed the scheduled opening of the Rafah border crossing, which was planned to be open from Tuesday to Thursday.
In a separate incident, a civilian was injured by a gunshot in Sheikh Zuweid on Monday evening, reported state-run MENA. The circumstances surrounding the incident were not clear.
Over the past three days, insurgent activity resulted in several deaths in North Sinai. Seven bodies were found Monday in different parts of Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah, according to state-run newspaper Al-Ahram. All had gunshot wounds.
On Saturday, two decapitated bodies were found in the area of Sheikh Zuweid. A local resident in Sheikh Zuwaid told Daily News Egypt that “it is known” that the militants use different execution techniques to signal the alleged “crime” of their victims. Beheading suggests the person was accused by the militants of cooperating with Israeli intelligence, whereas gunshots signal that the person was accused of cooperating with the Egyptian armed forces.
According to Zack Gold, a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, the assassinations of civilians in North Sinai is a “worrying” development. He added, however, that “the incidents also show ‘State of Sinai’s’ paranoia and likely signal that the group now believes it needs to maintain acquiescence through fear in place of real local support”.
‘State of Sinai’ also posted a series of photos online on Monday, allegedly showing its members handing over envelopes containing money to Rafah residents displaced by the authorities to establish the buffer zone along the Gaza border.
The Egyptian authorities began to establish the buffer zone following two deadly attacks on 24 October that left at least 30 security personnel dead. The purpose of the buffer zone is to prevent militants from entering the country or acquiring weapons through the underground smuggling tunnels connecting Sinai to Gaza.
The photos only show a handful of alleged Rafah residents, with their faces covered or outside of the picture frame. The envelopes also appear to be very thin, suggesting they did not contain much cash. ‘State of Sinai’ statements, posted along with the pictures, said affected residents had been compensated “as much as possible”.
North Sinai Governor Abdel Fattah Harhour said that the Egyptian government allocated EGP 500m to people displaced in the first-phase of the establishment of the Rafah buffer zone.
The buffer zone was initially planned to cover 500 metres in width along the Rafah-Gaza border, but as the authorities discovered longer underground tunnels, it was decided that the buffer zone should be extended to 1 km.
Harhour then announced in late December that the buffer zone would eventually extend to a total of 5km from the border, a plan that involves the forced displacement of almost all Rafah residents. The town itself is set to be razed, and a new Rafah will be built farther afield.
So far, the amount of money the government disbursed to the affected Rafah residents has amounted to EGP 250m for the first phase alone, which covers the first 500 metres along the border. The government is currently assessing the amount that will be allocated for the second phase, said Deputy Sinai Governor Mohamed Abdel Moniem.
‘State of Sinai’ described the forced evacuation of Rafah’s residents as a “raging campaign against Islam and Muslims”.
A local resident in Rafah, who requested anonymity and was relocated as part of the first phase, said that he was compensated for the house but not for the land in front of the house. He said his family received EGP 1.4m, which was then split among ten heirs sharing different quarters within the house.
The local resident further noted that he had not seen nor heard about militants giving out money to displaced residents.
Gold said that if the photos are real “this would be the first documented incident of the group providing ;social services to the population’”, which he described as “a new development”. He added that the organisation has long focused on gaining local support through highlighting the abuses committed by the army against the Sinai population.
‘State of Sinai’ was formerly known as Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis before pledging allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) in November. Gold said that “intelligence assessments suggest that access to money and weapons was the main reason Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis pledged allegiance to the foreign group”.