The bodies of two decapitated residents were found Saturday in North Sinai’s Sheikh Zuweid, a source within the North Sinai Directorate who requested to remain anonymous confirmed.
The two civilians had been kidnapped. Ayman Mohamed Salama disappeared six days ago, while Abdelsalam Mohamed Hemdan disappeared 12 days ago, the source said.
The assailants have yet to be identified. However, the North Sinai governorate official said the act was committed for “personal reasons”.
A Sheikh Zuweid resident who spoke to Daily News Egypt on condition of anonymity believed however that the two men were beheaded by militants. In his retelling of the incident, heavily armed masked men drove into town with the two captives and then beheaded them publicly.
He added that among Sheikh Zuweid residents “it is known” that the militants use different execution techniques to signal the alleged “crime” of their victims. Beheading suggests the person was accused by the militants of cooperating with Israeli intelligence, whereas gunshots signal that the person was accused of cooperating with the Egyptian armed forces.
North Sinai has witnessed numerous cases of beheading over the past year. Sinai-based militant group ‘State of Sinai’, formerly known as Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, claimed responsibility for some of the incidents, including the beheading of four men in August, whom it accused of working with Israeli intelligence in a video.
The insurgency in North Sinai has resulted in hundreds of deaths, including civilians. A graphic video released by ‘State of Sinai’ in December showed confessions of alleged “armed forces informers”, followed by images of militants executing the men with firearms.
Security personnel have been the most frequent target of the militants. The deadliest attack in North Sinai took place on 24 October 2014, leaving at least 27 personnel dead. In response, the armed forces began to establish a buffer zone along the Gaza border to prevent militants from acquiring weapons through the underground smuggling tunnels connecting Sinai to Gaza.
The first phase of the buffer zone implementation has already been completed, with the first 500 metres now evacuated. The implementation of the second phase began on 4 January and is set to cover an additional 500 metres. The buffer zone will eventually extend to a total width of 5km, a plan that effectively entails the forced evacuation of the entire town of Rafah.