Egypt's Sisi rallies troops in Sinai after IS attacks

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Cairo (AFP) - Egypt's president said Saturday the situation in the restive Sinai Peninsula, where dozens of soldiers, jihadists and civilians have been killed this week in yet more violence, is "totally stable".

Former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was speaking during an unannounced visit to the Sinai, dressed once more in military fatigues, to rally troops following a wave of attacks there by Islamic State group jihadists.

The army, police and even officials have regularly come under fire, not only in the Sinai but also in Cairo since then army chief Sisi ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi two years ago.

The jihadists say they are acting in response to the bloody repression launched by the authorities after Morsi's overthrow, which has seen at least 1,400 people killed and thousands more jailed.

Most of the attacks on the security forces are claimed by a group calling itself the "Sinai Province".

Formerly known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, it changed its name when it pledged allegiance to IS last November.

In remarks broadcast on television, Sisi said: "To say that everything is under control is not enough. The situation is totally stable."

He was speaking from an army base at an undisclosed location in the Sinai, where he was also shown inspecting captured weapons.

The army has said 17 soldiers and 100 militants were killed on Wednesday, but medical and security officials said the death toll was at least 70 people -- mostly soldiers -- as well as dozens of jihadists.

- 'Still recovering the bodies' -

"I have come to salute the heroes of the armed forces and to express to them my recognition," Sisi was quoted by the army's spokesman as saying.

"We are still recovering the bodies of terrorists from the latest attack," he said.

Wednesday's attacks in the Sinai came two days after the murder in broad daylight of chief state prosecutor Hisham Barakat in a Cairo car bombing.

The foreign ministry said the murder of Barakat and the Sinai attacks "affirm the presence of organised terrorist activity perpetrated by the Muslim Brotherhood" -- Morsi's blacklisted movement.

A statement said the Brotherhood "has declared war on Egypt during the holy month of Ramadan" when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk.

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri later told reporters that Brotherhood officials "operating from other countries" could be orchestrating the attacks.

Egypt has already jailed most of the group's senior leadership.

Officials regularly blame all attacks on the Brotherhood, the country's largest political movement which staged major electoral gains between the 2011 ouster of longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak and the election of Morsi.

- Criticises 'unreal' media images -

Sisi said the purpose of Wednesday's jihadist attacks was to mark the second anniversary of Morsi's ouster by "announcing the establishment of an Islamic province in Sinai", but that "plot was foiled".

Sisi, who has pledged to eliminate the militants, was faced with more deadly violence on Saturday, but said the theatre of operations was miniscule in comparison with the size of the Sinai.

"Sinai is 60,000 square kilometres (but) Rafah, Sheikh Zuweid and El-Arish form less than 5 percent of its area," he said.

Several civilians were killed on Saturday in a number of deadly incidents.

In one, a woman and two children died when a shell slammed into a house in Sheikh Zuweid, medics and security officials said.

Two men were killed when a mortar round hit another house in Sheikh Zuweid.

Separately, a roadside bomb targeting police and army vehicles killed a five-year-old child in the town of Rafah on the border with the Gaza Strip.

Seven people including children were wounded in these incidents.

In his speech, Sisi said that he saluted "every home, every mother whose child has died a martyr or been wounded for Egypt".

He also criticised the media coverage of Wednesday's attacks, saying it presented "an unreal image about Egypt, its stability and security. The purpose was to affect the will of the Egyptian people."

Meanwhile, the army spokesman has posted on his Facebook page several videos of the aerial bombing of militant positions titled "Strikes of vengeance against the rats of terror".

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting