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“Execution-style” Slayings of Egyptian Police Raise Stakes, as U.S. Middle East Allies Throw Support Behind Army

At least 25 Egyptian police officers were murdered yesterday by suspected Islamists who ambushed two police minibuses traveling near border between Sinai Peninsula and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. CBS News described the situation as a “bloodletting.” The Associated Press characterized the killings as “execution-style.” The details are brutal:

The militants forced the two vehicles to stop, ordered the policemen out and forced them onto their knees before shooting them execution-style in the back of their heads, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to the media.

The policemen were in civilian clothes, the officials said, and the killings took place just west of the north Sinai town of Rafah, in an area called Sadut. According to a Sinai-based journalist, the policemen were returning to duty at their camp in Rafah from vacation and were not being escorted by the military at the time of the attack.

The attack raises to more than 70 the number of security officials killed in recent clashes across Egypt.

The Telegraph notes that the killings occurred “after 36 Islamist prisoners were killed in an attempted jailbreak,” and comments that the two incidents are likely to further destabilize Egypt:

The two incidents will deepen the turmoil roiling the country, where nearly 1,000 people have been killed in clashes between security forces and supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi since last Wednesday… The killings, which took place near the border town of Rafah, compound Egypt’s woes a day after police fired tear gas to free a prison guard from rioting detainees, killing at least 36.

Meanwhile regional actors are aligning themselves for and against the Egyptian army and the Muslim Brotherhood. Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Nsur today urged the Egyptian army to “remain firm and strong” in seeking to quell Egyptian unrest, echoing the stance of Saudi King Abdullah, who according to the Wall Street Journal pledged support over the weekend “for what he called Egypt’s fight against ‘terrorism and extremism.'”

[Photo: The Israel Project / Flickr]