Six Eritrean migrants were killed and several others injured during a gun battle involving smugglers and security forces in North Sinai, police sources told Al-Masry Al-Youm.
The migrants were kept in custody by their smugglers who allegedly demanded extra money for taking them across the borders to Israel. Fighting broke out after one of the estimated 60 migrants seized weapons from the smugglers, when he managed to break out of custody and release fellow migrants. In the gun battle that ensued four of the migrants were killed and several injured, while the rest escaped.
Witnesses said security spread all over the area with armored vehicles. But a driver in the nearby Massoura district said there tribal issues between the Tarabin and the Rumeilat tribes have also prompted the security presence.
Since the incident security forces have arrested 17 of the escaped migrants as they tried to reach the border and cross to Israel. A further two migrants were shot and killed by the police.
The incident took place near al-Mahdeyya village, south of Rafah, a place well know for smuggling African migrants into Israel.
Trafficking routinely takes place in Sinai, where Bedouin tribesmen operate networks recruiting migrants from African countries, arranging transportation to Sinai and onward smuggling into Israel for the payment of substantial fees. Disputes about fees are commonplace, with migrants often facing detention and torture by their captives.
Both local and international human rights watchdogs have repeatedly expressed concern over migrant shootings at the border, which Egypt deems a necessary deterrence mechanism.