Six Eritreans 'shot dead on Egypt-Israel border'

Saturday, 14 August 2010 17:37 AFP


Smugglers and police have shot dead six Eritreans near the Israeli border, in the latest case of illegal crossings that have become perilous, an Egyptian security official said on Saturday.

The deadly clashes took place late on Friday after the African migrants seized the weapons of the people traffickers in a bid to escape, the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

He said four Eritreans -- three men and a woman -- were killed in an exchange of fire between the migrants and smugglers, and police shot dead two Eritreans from the same group as they tried to cross illegally into Israel.

The police detained 22 migrants, five of whom were wounded in the violence, and were still searching for the smugglers as well as for other members of the group estimated to number 60, the security official said.

After a failed attempt to smuggle the migrants into Israel, the traffickers had demanded money for their release, migrants told the police.
The deaths bring to 28 the number of African migrants killed so far this year in attempts to cross to Israel in search of a better life and job prospects, 24 of them by Egypt's police, according to the security services.

The figure compares with 19 migrants killed last year in Egypt, a country with a 1979 peace treaty with Israel which has called for stricter border controls. Most of the migrants hail from Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia.

Cairo has rejected harsh criticism from human rights groups of its policy of using potentially lethal force against migrants along its 250-kilometre (150-mile) border with Israel.

The Sinai desert border has become a major trafficking route for African migrants seeking jobs and for east European women headed for the sex trade.

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