Egypt denies Sudanese claims of killed Egyptian soldiers in Ayod battle
Egyptian army forces in Sinai - YOUM7 (Archive)
By AMIRA EL-FEKKI

CAIRO: Egyptian military forces denied news claiming that Egyptian soldiers had been held captive then killed in South Sudan, Youm7 reported on May 3.

The military further denounced the media that reported the news for lack of accuracy, Youm7 added.

Youm7 reported earlier on Saturday that Sudanese newspapers reported the death of Egyptian soldiers fighting in South Sudan alongside troops of President Silva Kiir Mayardit, after being held captive by opposition forces in the state of Jonglei in South Sudan.

According to the news, South Sudanese anti-regime forces, known as the white militias, captured 12 Egyptian and Ugandan soldiers, and one Sudanese newspaper published a list of their names, Youm7 further stated.

The Sudanese Upper Nile Times also reported on Friday that a dozen of Egyptian soldiers were killed in a battle in the town of Ayod.

The battle continued until Friday, when the white army reinforcements from Duk came and chased the government, UPDF and Egyptian soldiers onwards to the sudd swamp. 400 government soldiers were found dead as well as 16 Egyptians and 4 UPDF [Uganda Peoples Defense] forces, the newspaper said.

Meanwhile, controversy arose in Egypt following the news, as the public demanded to know the truth about the presence of the Egyptian army in Sudan.

Politician and vice-president of Al-Wasat Party Hatem Azzam called on the government to issue an official statement on the situation in Sudan, considering the news “extremely dangerous” for authorities to delay its confirmation or denial, Azzam said on his Twitter account.

Anadolu reported that South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar denied the presence of Egyptian soldiers combating in Sudan.

This is the first time the issue arose in the Egyptian media since press statements made by the Sudanese Defense Minister last week concerning the deployment of joint Egyptian-Sudanese forces on the border to control human trafficking.

Sudan is cooperating with the Egyptian side to deploy a similar force to control the area extending from the West Bank of the Nile to the Libyan border, Sudanese Defense Minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein previously said in a press conference in Cairo.

Human trafficking, the situation of refugees and numerous torture reports have put Egypt and Sudan in an embarrassing situation before international human rights organizations and the United Nations. HRW and IRIN had repeatedly reported on thousands of Eritreans being captured, killed, abused and tortured for ransom.

But Egypt’s interest in protecting the borders reflects a bigger concern in regard to its current political and security situation, especially the army’s conflict with armed groups smuggling weapons through the borders.

In 2011, Egypt and Sudan spoke of establishing joint efforts to secure the borders and prevent the smuggling of weapons, as the Egyptian Intelligence Chief Mourad Mowafi spoke of the seizure of anti-plane missiles believed to have been smuggled through the borders.

In December 2013, president of Al-Wafd Party El-Sayed el-Badawi was sent to Sudan to complete agreements to coordinate between both countries to allow the Egyptian army more inspection along the borders in order to prevent arms from reaching militant groups in Sinai, Youm7 had reported.

Talks were ongoing during the rule of former President Mohamed Morsi but were interrupted when he was removed from power on July 3, 2013.

Most weapons were found out to be coming from Libya. Egyptian authorities regularly report on the arrest of trespassers on their way to Libya, including Sudanese.

Following Hussein’s visit to Egypt and his meeting with former Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, the Sudanese ambassador and the defense ministers – who had also met with Badawi – saw the proposal for a mutual cooperation to secure the borders as a step to ease the tension between the two countries following Egypt’s accusations to Sudan that it was supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, which the state had declared as a terrorist organization.

Additional reporting by Mohamed Ahmed Tantawy and Youssef Ayoub and Amin Salah.

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