CAIRO — An estimated 2,400 men from north Sinai remain in Egyptian prisons without charge, four months after security police began rounding them up for questioning in the bombings of tourist resorts frequented by Israelis, a human rights group said Tuesday.
Many of the men have been tortured and in most cases authorities have failed to tell their families where they are being held or what is happening to them, New York-based Human Rights Watch alleged.
In informal meetings with the rights group, Egyptian officials justified the conduct of the police by saying that U.S. and Israeli authorities behave in the same way when their security is threatened, a director of Human Rights Watch, Joe Stork, said at a news conference.
Challenged on the detentions and torture allegations at a meeting last month, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said the reports were implausible because there were only a few thousand people in total in El Arish, the center of the arrest campaign.
At a meeting with Stork on Tuesday, a senior Interior Ministry official said police had detained only about 200 people in north Sinai, Stork said.
Asked how many people remain in detention, Stork said: "The estimate we made of 2,400 people still in detention ... that's our best guess."
The Oct. 7 bombings killed 34 people.
The detentions present a conflict with the official version of the investigation, according to which all nine bombers and alleged accomplices are dead or under arrest.