Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said in a TV phone interview on Monday that Egypt’s ongoing fight against terrorism in Sinai is taking a heavy toll on the state’s resources.
In a phone interview with TV host Amr Adib on his late night show Kol Youm on ONTV channel, El-Sisi said that the cost of fighting terrorism has been “huge” over the last three-and-a-half years, not only in “sacrifices made through the blood of our children, but also in the monetary cost.”
The president’s phone interview came hours after two terrorist attacks in North Sinai’s El-Arish killed eight security personnel and one civilian and injured dozens more.
El-Sisi said there are currently 41 army battalions of up to 25,000 personnel fighting in North Sinai alongside the police, which he says takes heavy resources to maintain.
“The fight against terrorism does not end in one or two days, and [we] are committing a lot of [our] resources to just being ready [for a possible terrorist attack],” he said.
The president also stressed that that the army is careful to ensure there are no civilian casualties in its anti-terror operations in Sinai.
“The people living in Sheikh Zuweid, Rafah and El-Arish should not pay the price [for what is happening in Sinai],” El-Sisi said.
The president also said that Egypt is facing terrorism alone on behalf of the entire world, and that when “the entire region has been moving in a direction in accordance with a plot being executed, only Egyptians decided to move in a different direction.”
“In Sinai, you are talking about a plot and resources being [provided to militants by] certain countries and apparatuses. These are whom I refer to as the people of evil,” El-Sisi said, adding that over the last three months, millions of dollars and Egyptian pounds, as well as 1,000 tonnes of explosives, were confiscated from hideouts in North Sinai.
However, the president declined to name any specific countries that might be behind this “plot.”
He also said that “the new US administration has said that Egypt is the only state fighting terrorism with courage, strength and honesty,” adding that the region would not have been able to withstand the threat of terrorism if Egypt were not in this fight.
‘Mobilising public opinion today is not the same as in 1967’
When asked by Adib why public opinion was not being mobilised in the fight against terrorism, El-Sisi said that Egypt’s reality today is different than that of 1967, when the country’s was fighting the War of Attrition against Israel.
“[In 1967], the entire country – its security apparatus and its media – were all speaking the same language and were all lined up for one goal,” El-Sisi said.
The president said that from 1967 to 1970, Egypt faced a number of attacks comparable to what is being witnessed today in Sinai, which makes the current fight against militants “a real war.”
“But is the media mobilisation and public opinion aware and actually behind this current fight? No, and this is due to the circumstances Egypt has been living in following [the revolution in] 2011,” El-Sisi said.
The president said that Egyptian citizens are aware of the challenges Egypt faces, thanking them for not submitting to chaos despite tough economic challenges.
“The Egyptian citizen has been aware of the dangers and is keen on protecting his country,” El-Sisi said, referring to calls for protests leading up to 11 November over the economic situation in the country.
Limited protests were held on 11 November, which the interior ministry said was the work of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group.
El-Sisi said in the interview that 53 “terrorist operations” took place in the month leading up to the planned 11 November protests, which he said aimed to “destroy the state”.
“All states that, whether intentionally or unintentionally, took actions to instigate [the 11/11 protests] want to destroy this state; not me,” El-Sisi said.