File Photo: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi (Photo: Reuters)
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said his government is providing all possible help to residents of the city of Arish, who he said were being targeted as part of a “cowardly plot by evil people” designed to undermine national unity and confidence in the state.
The comments come in the wake of a wave of militant-linked killings of local Christians which has prompted dozens of Coptic residents of the capital of North Sinai governorate to flee to other parts of the country, primarily the city of Ismailiya.
"The government is keen to offer all help and assistance to the people of Arish", the president was quoted as saying by state news agency MENA.
Dozens of Christians have fled the area over the past few days after three of their co-religionists were killed last week in Arish, bringing to seven the number of killings in the last month.
The president made the remarks in an open discussion during a surprise visit late on Monday to young people participating in a presidential youth leadership programme.
He reiterated that the "state is determined to eradicate militants in North Sinai and eliminate terrorism there.”
Earlier this week, El-Sisi ordered the authorities to help provide accommodation for the Copts fleeing Sinai--mostly to the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya.
El-Sisi also said that militant violence, focused in North Sinai, has taken toll on tourism, a pillar of the country's economy and a main source of foreign currency, saying that the industry is dependent on the "country's security and stability."
He added that Egypt's foreign policy is based on security of the Arab world. "Any threat to the brothers in Gulf countries poses a threat to the Egyptian national security," the president said.
The recent spate of killings in North Sinai came after the Egyptian affiliate of the Islamic State militant group released a video last week vowing to step up attacks against Christians.
Via the video the group claimed responsibility for the bombing of a Coptic church in Cairo in December which killed 29 people, the deadliest attack against Christians in recent years.
Copts make up approximately 10 percent of Egypt's 90 million population.