In military uniform, Egypt's Sisi cheers on troops in North Sinai following IS attack

Ahram Online , Saturday 4 Jul 2015

During his speech in military uniform, the Egyptian president stressed that the situation in Egypt's Sheikh Zuweid, Rafah and Al-Arish cities is stable

Abdel Fattah El-Sisi
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi with top military personnel during his visit to North Sinai on Saturday, 4 July, 2015 (Photo: The Egyptian presidency)

Speaking to army personnel on Saturday in Egypt's North Sinai, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said he had to pay a visit himself in military uniform "in recognition of and respect for their battle against terrorism" in the restive peninsula.

El-Sisi had to resign from the military in order to run in Egypt's presidential race, as per Egyptian law that stipulates that army personnel are not allowed to enter politics. It was the first time since he took office in June 2014 to don a military uniform.

El-Sisi's 15-minute televised speech, which comes only days after a major attack by Islamic State affiliates Sinai Province group, praised the efforts exerted by police and army personnel in Egypt's North Sinai.

"I did not want to cheer your efforts through the media, I wanted to come myself to thank you and to send a clear message that the armed forces are up to securing their country," he said.

"The armed forces could easily wipe out all sorts of terrorism," stressed El-Sisi, who added that the soldiers deployed in the restive peninsula are only 1 percent of Egypt's armed forces.

"History will mark the role that the Egyptian armed forces are playing for more than four years in light of the hard times Egypt and the Middle East have been passing through," says El-Sisi, highlighting the role of the armed forces not only in security, but also in economic projects related to Egypt's infrastructure.

'Situation stable in Sinai'

During his speech, the Egyptian president stressed that the situation in Egypt's Sheikh Zuweid, Rafah and Al-Arish cities is stable.

"The expression 'under control' is not enough for me, the situation is stable," stressed El-Sisi, referring to the areas that had been most struck by militant attacks.

Earlier on Saturday the Egyptian president met army soldiers in security checkpoints between Sheikh Zuweid, Al-Arish and Rafah cities.

The top leader also gave accounts in his speech to the assassination of the country's top prosecution Hisham Barakat who was killed on the eve of June 30, which marked the second anniversary of the uprising that ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi.

"The message behind the assassination was that [terrorists] want to silence Egyptians, who went out and freely expressed their opinion on 30 June [2013], by killing their advocate [Hisham Barakat]."

The second message was when the militants attacked Sinai and announced it to be an "Islamist province", two years after the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, whereas Egyptians had refused Islamist rule, said El-Sisi.

Yet the total area of Sinai is 60,000 kilometres square, of which the area covered by the three cities in which most of the attacks take place does not exceed 5 percent, El-Sisi added.

"The army has countered the militants' attacks in the most powerful, appropriate and planned way... It is true some of our soldiers passed away in the battle and some others were injured, but this is a national duty," says El-Sisi.

Civilians and Sinai residents

The Egyptian president stressed that the armed forces have clear orders not to target any civilians in the peninsula.

"In our battle with the terrorists, the Egyptian armed forces do not target civilians and this is by order," he said.

Meanwhile, El-Sisi praised the role of Sinai residents who have been aiding the country's armed forces in their battle against terrorism.

El-Sisi's visit comes after simultaneous attacks in two North Sinai cities on Wednesday left 17 army personnel, including four officers, killed and more than 100 militants dead, according to the army.

The fight continued for several hours between Egyptian security forces and militants affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) in Sheikh Zuweid city, until the Egyptian air force conducted air strikes there and forced the militants to withdraw.  

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