Bloody violence has continued today as Egyptian security officials say suspected militants have ambushed two police minibuses in northern Sinai, firing rocket-propelled grenades at the vehicles.
The attack is believed to have been carried out as the two vehicles were driving through a village near the border town of Rafah in the volatile Sinai Peninsula, located in the strategic region bordering the Gaza Strip and Israel.
The killings compound a day of loss for the country as 36 detainees, believed to be Muslim Brotherhood members, died in government custody on Sunday when police fired tear gas in an attempt to free a prison guard from rioting prisoners. The Brotherhood are calling the deaths murder, but the authorities argue it was the result of a thwarted jail-break.
In today's attack in Sinai, militants allegedly forced the two vehicles to stop, ordered the policemen out and forced them to lie on the ground before shooting them to death, the officials said. The policemen were in civilian clothes speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
Officials speaking on condition of anonymity said the attack has also left three policemen wounded.
Sinai has been witnessing almost daily attacks since former president Mohamed Morsi was ousted on 3 July. Military and security forces have since been engaged in a long-running battle against militants in the northern half of the peninsula. Militants and tribesmen have used the area for smuggling and other criminal activity for years and have on occasion fired rockets into Israel and staged cross-border attacks.
Egypt is under-going increasing political turmoil following the interim government's successive use of force to clear Muslim brotherhood supporter camps and quell demonstrations, leading to the deaths of 750 people across Thursday and Friday.
Meanwhile, Hosni Mubarak, the former Egyptian president who was deposed in an uprising in 2011, will be released from jail in the next 48 hours after a prosecutor cleared him in a corruption case, his lawyer Fareed El-Deeb announced today.
He spoke after judicial authorities ordered Mubarak be released in one of the remaining corruption cases against him. "All we have left is a simple administrative procedure that should take no more than 48 hours. He should be freed by the end of the week," Deeb said.
Mubarak, 85, will still face a retrial on charges of complicity in the murder of protesters during the 2011 unrest.
The deaths come as European Union ambassadors meet today to discuss the escalating political crisis in the country.
European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and the president of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy yesterday issued a rare joint statement warning that the EU would "urgently" review its relations with Egypt in the coming days.
The diplomats are expected to lay the groundwork for a coordinated EU response which would then be finalized at an emergency meeting of the bloc's foreign ministers, possibly by the end of the week.
The EU is a major source of aid, loans, business and tourists for Egypt. The EU and its member states last year pledged a combined 5 billion euros ($6.7 billion) in loans and aid for Egypt.
Additional reporting by agenciesReuse content