By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - Egyptian security forces are carrying out "serious and widespread abuses" in the Sinai Peninsula, some of which are tantamount to war crimes, Human Rights Watch warned Tuesday.
Egypt's military and police are currently engaged in an offensive to root out Daesh's local Egyptian affiliate, called Sinai Province, but the rights monitor said Egyptian efforts include "mass arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture, extrajudicial killings and possibly unlawful air and ground attacks against civilians."
The findings follow the group's two-year investigation into the conflict that culminated in the release of a 134-page report.
"Instead of protecting Sinai residents in their fight against militants, the Egyptian security forces have shown utter contempt to residents’ lives, turning their daily life into a nonstop nightmare of abuses," Michael Page, the watch's deputy Middle East and North Africa director, said in a statement accompanying the report's release.
"This horrific treatment of Sinai residents should be another wake-up call to countries like the U.S. and France that heedlessly endorse Egypt’s counterterrorism efforts," Page added.
During the course of the conflict, which escalated in 2013, Egyptian authorities arrested over 12,000 residents of the Sinai Peninsula despite publicly acknowledging taking just over 7,000 into custody, the report said.
Many of those who were detained were arbitrarily arrested and forcibly disappeared and some were extrajudicially killed, according to Human Rights Watch, which documented 20 cases of individuals who were secretly detained being killed and their deaths being later blamed by officials on shootouts.
The group said thousands of local residents likely fled the area or were forcibly evicted by security forces.
Human Rights Watch further said Daesh's Sinai Province has been engaged in "horrific crimes" that have included indiscriminate attacks, including bombings of populated areas, kidnappings and killings of some of those who were abducted.