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Egypt attacked the United Nations on Wednesday, saying its criticism of the shooting deaths of migrants at the border with Israel was "full of mistakes and incorrect allegations."

A day earlier, the UN's human rights chief Navi Pillay called on Cairo to urgently launch an independent and credible inquiry into what the former war crimes judge said could be a "shoot-to-kill policy" by some Egyptian security forces.

"The report lacked professionalism and neutrality that Egypt expects from those who occupy such an important international post," a statement from Egypt's foreign ministry said.

The criticism had failed to consider the sensitive nature of Egypt's border with Israel, or mention that criminal gangs aid the migrants and often open fire on Egyptian forces, forcing them to fire back, the statement said.

"And this has led to the occurrence of deaths among the Egyptian forces and the illegal immigrants, as 14 members from the Egyptian borders' guards had died in 2009," it said.

Border police have killed nine migrants this year, while at least 19 were killed in 2009.

The foreign ministry said that the act of crossing the border without documentation was itself an illegal act.

"Any subjective and precise evaluation of the illegal migration operations across Egyptian borders could not have ignored that those operations are considered criminals acts," the statement said.

The Sinai border is a major transit route for African migrants and refugees seeking work or asylum in Israel. Egypt has come under pressure from Israel to staunch the flow, while rights groups complain about the methods of the border police.

Amnesty International called on Egypt earlier this month to check its border guards' use of excessive force against unarmed migrants.