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Egypt says civilian attempts to fight Jihadists are illegal

The interior ministry's comments came after an alleged video of pro-state militia vowing to fight Sinai militants surfaced

Ahram Online, Wednesday 5 Nov 2014
Smoke rises as a house is blown up during a military operation by Egyptian security forces in the Egyptian city of Rafah, near the border with southern Gaza Strip November 3, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt's interior ministry said Wednesday that all civilian attempts to combat jihadists are illegal, a day after an alleged video surfaced of a new pro-state militia in the restive Sinai Peninsula.

The video that appeared online showed masked men holding weapons and vowing to avenge the deaths of their "sons and brothers of Sinai,” who have been caught in the rising wave of militancy in the region.

"We the sons of Sinai have decided to fight back, unite and protect our children and our country," one man read out of a paper in the video.

In comments to state news agency MENA, interior minister Hany Abdel-Latif said security strategies reject any attempts from civilians, whoever they are, to face the terrorist elements.

"Fighting terrorism on the ground is the work of security forces only, and the role of civilians is to provide the security apparatus with available information on suspects," Abdel-Latif was quoted as saying.

He said the role of the Egyptian citizen at this time is no less important than the role of security personnel and that several successes have been achieved thanks to civilian cooperation.

Security forces have been fighting Islamist extremists in Sinai for a decade, with the attacks rising and escalating since the ouster of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last year. Assaults have also poured into the capital and other cities, mainly targeting security forces but at times also harming civilians.

The majority of the major attacks were claimed by the Sinai-based Al-Qaeda-linked group Ansar Beit El-Maqdis.

The latest attack in October claimed the lives of 32 army men, registering the highest death toll in a single attack on troops in decades. Soon after, authorities decided to evacuate the border strip between the Egyptian border city of Rafah and Gaza, which they believe has allowed the infiltration of Jihadists, weapons and ammunition.

Already some 1,150 families have left their homes since the evacuation started last week.

Abdel-Latif said that security forces have managed, since the ouster of Morsi, to arrest 65 terror cells that included 450 alleged jihadists and 115 groups linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hailed. 

Authorities have also dealt with nearly 5,500 instances of rioting and blocking roads and confiscated large amounts of weapons and ammunition, he added.

In the same period, 118 explosive devices took off while 385 others were dismantled.

He said he expected that there will be further attacks in the coming period, in reaction to security forces' "strong measures on the ground, especially with the full support and cooperation of Sinai's people."

Security forces have blamed the unrest on the Brotherhood, designated as a terrorist group last year, and their Islamist allies. A crackdown on Morsi's supporters has left hundreds killed and thousands in jail.

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