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Rights group: Halt Egypt aid over video showing executions

BEIRUT — An international rights group late Friday urged suspension of military aid to Egypt after video leaked by an Islamist TV channel showed troops appearing to carry out cold-blooded executions of as many as eight detainees in the northern Sinai Peninsula, where the army is embroiled in battles with the Islamic State militant movement.

Human Rights Watch said two men in the video had been identified as belonging to a militia that helps the army against IS. The group said members of Egyptian military intelligence are shown directing executions before placing rifles next to bodies to depict the dead as militants killed in a raid.

Egypt's army spokesman could not be reached for comment.

The video was aired on a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated network called Mekameleen on Thursday.

Human Rights Watch said as many as eight unarmed detainees may have been killed, though only two executions are clear in the video.

It said those two, ages 16 and 19, were arrested in July in the border town of Rafah. It is not clear from the video when the executions took place, but the same victims appeared in official press releases from the Egyptian army in November and December, including the official webpage of the armed forces spokesman, the rights group said.

The group cited a network official as saying the killings took place in October or November in a village called al-Tuma, south of Sheikh Zuweid in northern Sinai Peninsula.

Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director for Human Rights Watch, called the killings "outrageous" and said the incident shows Egypt's counterterrorism campaign in Sinai "is out of control."

"Egypt's allies cannot claim ignorance about these deadly abuses," Stork said.

Since the Egyptian military ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi n 2013, security forces have cracked down on his supporters, killing hundreds and jailing thousands. In northern Sinai, the army battled the local group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis shortly before it pledged allegiance to IS.

Initially, IS focused its attacks in Egypt on the army and police, but affiliates have expanded their operations and recently staged a series of suicide bombings targeting Christians. This month, at least 45 Christians were killed in two suicide bombings in the northern cities of Alexandria and Tanta. IS claimed responsibility. The bombings prompted President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the former army chief, to declare a state of emergency for three months.

Amid the security campaign, Egyptian police have been facing accusations of human rights violations, including torture to death, forced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings.

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