Owner, 4 employees of military-contracted construction company kidnapped in North Sinai

Four employees and the owner of a military-contracted construction company were kidnapped in North Sinai on Friday by unknown assailants. The employees were released several hours later, but the fate of the company owner remains unknown, a local source told Mada Masr.

The source, who spoke to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity, stated that unidentified kidnappers abducted Mahmoud Hamdy al-Qalaagi, the owner of the construction company, as well as four drivers employed by the company, near the area of Gaal, south of Bir al-Abd, a city that lies 80 kilometers west of the North Sinai capital of Arish.

The company, along with other construction companies, was in the process of building a new road that connects between the districts of Gaal and Zaqdan, in a project that is being overseen by the Armed Forces Engineering Authority.

As of yet, none of the militant groups active in North Sinai has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, which marks the first incident of military activity in the area since the launch of Operation Sinai 2018 in February by Egypt’s Armed Forces.

Militant attacks on military-contracted civilians in other parts of the governorate have been on the rise, however.

In late October, two military-contracted workers were killed and 10 others were injured when an IED exploded inside their vehicle as they were driving on the ring road south of Arish. The workers targeted in the attack were all contracted as part of a project to develop security fortifications around military checkpoints on the ring road, a source told Mada Masr at the time.

Four civilians were also shot and killed near a checkpoint in the Samran neighborhood, south of Arish, earlier that month. Although local sources told Mada Masr at the time that they suspected the shots came from the military checkpoint nearby, the Province of Sinai claimed responsibility for the killings in a statement released through its media arm, the Amaq News Agency, three days later, describing the workers as “agents of the Egyptian army.”

A security source quoted by the Associated Press reported that the workers were involved in the construction of the security barrier to the south of Arish.

A group of workers were also kidnapped by militants for several days while working on the construction of the same barrier in Arish in September, a source reported to Mada Masr, saying that their captors eventually released them on the condition that they do not return to working for projects overseen or contracted by Egyptian authorities.

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