A video has emerged that appears to show members of the Egyptian military shooting unarmed detainees to death at point-blank range in the Sinai Peninsula and staging the killings to look as if they had happened in combat.
The leaked video, which was posted on social media on Thursday, could undercut claims made by the Egyptian Army in December that the men were suspected terrorists who died in a fight with the military.
The video was released the same day that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis met in Egypt with its president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, to discuss improving their countries’ military relationship. It also comes after human rights groups accused the Egyptian military of killing up to 10 men in January in a staged counterterrorism raid in Sinai.
The three-minute video, which was released through a channel associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, appears to depict part of a raid that the Egyptian Army highlighted in a Facebook post on Dec. 6, 2016. That post included photos of three bloody men in a grassy area with rifles next to them. The post said they had been killed in a military raid on a terrorist base and an explosives storehouse.
Eight people were killed and four others were arrested, the military said on Facebook in December, as Egyptian armed forces “continued to tighten their security grip” in the Sinai Peninsula, where the country has waged a yearslong battle.
But the video shows no firefight and starts with soldiers mingling next to an armored truck in a sandy field scattered with bodies next to shrubs and grassy patches. But it does show the killing of at least three people. In one case, a soldier casually holds a rifle over a man on the ground and shoots him in the head. In another, soldiers escort a blindfolded man into the field, place him on his knees and shoot him multiple times in the head and upper body.
The pro-state Egyptian news site Youm7 called the video a fabrication carried out by the Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned in the country, and said the people in the video did not have Egyptian accents.
At one point in the video, a man off camera tells a soldier in Arabic to shoot the captured men in a variety of places. “Don’t just do the head, O.K.? Don’t just do the head,” the person said.
In addition to the three men seen killed, the video shows two men lying on the ground who were apparently in the Facebook post. The same men included in the Facebook post in December were apparently also shown in a military video shared on YouTube in November for an operation that claimed to have killed eight terrorists “during clashes.”
Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division, which released a report about the January killings, said the group was investigating the latest video.
“We have not yet verified the video, and are working on it,” Ms. Whitson said in an email. “But it accords closely with our findings about other summary executions in Sinai and Cairo.”
Mokhtar Awad, a militancy expert at George Washington University, said the video was unlikely to be widely discussed on Egyptian news media because of emergency laws enacted by Mr. Sisi last week after suicide attacks by the Islamic State on two Christians churches on Palm Sunday.
“The worst thing I’ve seen before is of soldiers beating a guy,” Mr. Awad said. “We’ve never seen video from Sinai or elsewhere showing an Egyptian serviceman killing someone in cold blood.”
Together with the accusations of extrajudicial executions in Sinai in January, Mr. Awad said, it suggested “a growing level of impunity” in parts of the Egyptian military, particularly in Sinai where local emergency laws have been in place for years.
“It is a significant problem, and something that needs to be seriously addressed,” he said. “Otherwise things could head in a very problematic direction, of this somehow becoming a new normal.”