A gun battle between African migrants and Bedouin traffickers demanding more money to take them to Israel killed four people in Egypt's Sinai Desert, security officials said Saturday.
The traffickers had tied up around 300 of the illegal migrants, but several managed to escape and grab weapons from their captors, setting off Friday's fighting, the two officials said, quoting from witness statements. Around 100 of the migrants fled, they said.
Hundreds of Africans seeking political asylum or jobs in Israel try to sneak across the border each year, helped by Bedouin traffickers who charge up to $1,000 for the trip. Dozens have been shot dead by Egyptian border guards.
Two of those who escaped Friday's clash were killed by Egyptian guards at the Israeli border, according to medical and security officials.
Egyptian police arrested 17 others, the two security officials said. All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
The United Nations has criticized Egypt for killing more than 60 African migrants trying to reach Israel through the Sinai Desert since 2007. The government says it fires warning shots first.
Despite the border shootings, the number of illegal migrants attempting to cross into Israel is rising. Most of them come from Sudan and the Horn of Africa. The number of African asylum-seekers in Israel is around 20,000.
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