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Tribal coalition in Egypt's Sinai puts bounty on head of militant leader

Move comes amid rising tensions between militant group and leading tribe, which has urged members to take up arms against the group
Shadi al-Menei, a militant leader now subject to a $130,000 bounty (Twitter/@ElBadilNews)

A tribal coalition in Egypt's northeastern Sinai Peninsula on Saturday offered a $130,000 bounty for killing a senior leader of Wilayet Sinai, the most active militant group in the area.

"A bounty of one million [Egyptian] pounds has been offered for anyone who kills Shadi al-Menei, and 100,000 pounds [roughly $13,000] for information on his whereabouts," the Youth Coalition of Sinai Tribes and Families said in a Facebook statement.

The statement was disseminated by Sheikh Moussa al-Dalh, a chieftain of Tarabin tribe, one of Sinai's largest and most prominent tribes.

Another statement by the coalition, also published by al-Dalh, claimed that Menei had escaped to the Gaza Strip.

The bounty was announced after a member of the Tarabin tribe was executed by Wilayet Sinai and another abducted, following a call issued by Tarabin leaders for locals to take up arms against the militants.

On Monday, scores of tribesmen staged an armed procession with pick-up trucks in areas where militants from Wilayet Sinai group are believed to be hiding.

Local men fired shots from sub-machine guns mounted on the pick-up trucks at suspected “nests” of the militants south of the border town of Rafah, according to a tribal source who spoke to local news site al-Badil. 

Active in northern Sinai, the Wilayet Sinai group, formerly known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, acquired its current name after reportedly swearing allegiance to Islamic State, which last year seized control of vast swathes of territory in both Iraq and Syria.

The group has claimed responsibility for most attacks targeting police and army personnel in the peninsula in recent months.

It has also reportedly executed large numbers of locals for allegedly collaborating with the Egyptian security services.

The group released a statement last month warning that those who help the Egyptian army, which launched a major crackdown on militancy last year, will be “severely punished”.

Local tribesmen attacked the militants two days after President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi extended for an additional three months the state of emergency in some areas in the Sinai Peninsula.

The state of emergency, which includes a strict night-time curfew, has been in place since a devastating attack killed over 30 Egyptian soldiers last year.

The Egyptian authorities are working to build a “buffer zone” between their territory and the Gaza Strip, fearing that underground tunnels could be used to smuggle weapons into Egypt.

Last week authorities announced that the buffer zone, in which all properties are to be razed, will be expanded, leading to the displacement of three more villages.