Egypt’s interior ministry said Tuesday that 16 suspected militants have been killed in North Sinai, where security forces have for years been battling a local affiliate of the Islamic State group.
The militants were killed during police raids on their hideouts in the provincial capital, El-Arish, the ministry said in a statement.
They were found with weapons and explosives in their possession, it added without detailing when the raids took place.
Based on intelligence from the national security department, the ministry alleged the militants had been planning attacks on “important and vital facilities” as well as prominent figures in the city.
Egypt has for years been fighting an insurgency in North Sinai, which escalated following the 2013 military ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
Since then, hundreds of police officers and soldiers have been killed in militant attacks.
In February 2018, the army launched a nationwide operation against the militants, focusing mainly on the turbulent North Sinai region.
Some 650 militants and around 45 soldiers have been killed since the start of the offensive, according to separate statements by the armed forces.
No independent data is available to verify the deaths, and the region is largely cut off to journalists.
Recently, the Egyptian government has started organising rare media visits closely supervised by the military.
Egypt’s renovation of Baron Palace sparks online outcry
Mnay have faulted repair works as being misrepresentative of the building’s history and materials to be of poor quality
Egyptian authorities have defended renovation works at a historic Cairo palace after the site’s new look sparked mockery on social media.
The site, dubbed the Baron Palace, was built between 1907 and 1911 by wealthy Belgian industrialist Edouard Empain.
The baron also spearheaded the development of the surrounding upmarket neighbourhood of Heliopolis.
Built in a style reminiscent of the Cambodian Hindu temple of Angkor Wat, the striking building set amid lush gardens has long since fallen into disrepair.
But work to restore the building has sparked outcry.
Many have taken issue with white marble additions to the building’s rosy pink stone exterior, saying the materials are of poor quality and not in keeping with the original style.
One Twitter user asked:
“Who is the fool behind the restoration of Egypt’s palaces? Our heritage is being systematically destroyed.”
A Facebook page called Egyptian Historians chided officials for the “warped” restoration.
“Be honest with yourselves and admit that you ruined it… you are literally demolishing our monument”, a post on the group’s page said.
Antiquities Minister, Khaled El-Enany dismissed online criticisms as “fake news”.
“I didn’t hear one word of truth in all these social media comments,” he said in a statement.
His ministry said the colours of the palace had faded from weather damage over many years.
“The restoration is a real dream and we will breathe life into this abandoned landmark,” Enany added.
General Hisham Samir, who heads up the ministry’s engineering branch, said the colours were “correct and are backed up by historical sources.”
The works began in July 2017 in co-operation with the Belgian government and will cost 100 million Egyptian pounds (over $6 million), the statement added.
Samir told reporters that the work is expected to be completed by year’s end with plans to open the building to the public by early 2020.
Egypt’s multitude of historical monuments and buildings are a major draw for tourists, though the country has often faced accusations of neglecting these sites.
The government has recently launched various restoration projects to stimulate tourism, a key sector that has suffered in recent years due to political insecurity and sporadic jihadist attacks.
Measles is a bigger threat in DR Congo than Ebola – NGO
Last year, cases more than doubled to almost 350,000 from 2017, according to the World Health Organization
Measles has killed 2,758 people in DR Congo since January, more than the Ebola epidemic in a year, medical NGO Doctors Without Borders said, and called Saturday for a “massive mobilisation of funds.”
The disease, preventable with a vaccine, has infected over 145,000 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo between January and early August, it said in a statement.
“Since July, the epidemic has worsened, with a rise in new cases reported in several provinces,” said the NGO that goes by its French acronym MSF.
“Only $2.5 million has been raised out of the $8.9 million required for the Health Cluster response plan — in stark contrast with the Ebola epidemic in the east of the country, which attracts multiple organisations and hundreds of millions of dollars in funding,” it added.
MSF tweeted that without a “massive mobilisation of funds and response organisations, the current measles outbreak in #DRCongo could get even worse.”
The NGO said it has vaccinated 474,860 children between the ages of six months and five years since the beginning of the year and provided care to more than 27,000 measles patients.
In the country’s east, Ebola has claimed more than 1,900 lives since erupting last August.
Measles is a highly-contagious diseased caused by a virus that attacks mainly children. The most serious complications include blindness, brain swelling, diarrhoea, and severe respiratory infections.
Last year, cases more than doubled to almost 350,000 from 2017, according to the World Health Organization, amid a rise in “anti-vaxxer” sentiment in some countries that can afford the vaccine, and lagging resources for the preventative measure in poor nations.
DR Congo declared a measles epidemic in June.
Two UN personnel killed in Benghazi by car bomb
Two members of the UN mission were killed and at least eight others wounded including a child, by a car bomb.
A car bombing in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi killed two United Nations staff on Saturday, a security official said.
“Two members of the UN mission were killed and at least eight others wounded including a child, by a car bomb” in a shopping area of the Al-Hawari district, the official said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, which happened as a UN convoy was passing through the area.
Benghazi, Libya’s second city and the cradle of the 2011 uprising that overthrew dictator Muammar Gaddafi, was hit by years of violence targeting diplomatic offices and security forces after his fall.
An attack on the US consulate on September 11, 2012, killed US ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
In 2017, military strongman Khalifa Haftar drove hardline Islamists and jihadists out of Benghazi after a three-year battle.
Haftar, who backs an eastern-based administration that opposes the Tripoli-based unity government, went on to seize Derna, the last city in eastern Libya outside his control.
But bombings and kidnappings have continued.
A May 2018 attack left seven people dead and last month, a car bombing at the funeral of an ex-army commander killed at least four people and wounded more than 30 others.
A Libyan lawmaker is also feared to have been abducted by an armed group in the eastern city, the UN and lawmakers said in July.
Haftar controls most of eastern Libya, and early this year he ordered his self-styled Libyan National Army to purge the south of what he called “terrorist groups and criminals”.
On the heels of that campaign, his LNA launched in April an offensive to take the Libyan capital from the UN-recognised Government of National Accord.
The LNA on Saturday announced a truce around Tripoli for the three-day Muslim festival of Eid Al-Adha, after the unity government conditionally accepted a ceasefire called for by the UN.
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