No dispute between Egypt president, military over Sinai crisis: Expert

Ahram Online, Monday 20 May 2013

Prominent security expert says military intervention is 'only solution' to Sinai kidnapping crisis, denies existence of differences between president, military over how to secure soldiers' release

Mohamed Morsi

Egyptian military expert Abdel-Moneim Kato on Monday denied the existence of any differences between President Mohamed Morsi and Defence Minister Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi over how to secure the release of seven Egyptian soldiers kidnapped last week in the Sinai Peninsula.

"There is no conflict between the presidency and the military leadership because the president is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces," Kato told Turkish news agency Anadolu. "They share the same vision."

Since last Thursday's kidnapping, speculation has been rife about a possible dispute between Egypt's military leadership and the presidency over how to deal with the crisis.

On Sunday, the presidency issued a statement denying "any differences" between Egyptian state apparatuses regarding the kidnapped soldiers, noting the "complete coordination" currently underway between the ministries of interior and defence.

The statement came following a meeting between President Mohamed Morsi and several security officials – including El-Sisi – in which attendees stressed that the kidnapped soldiers would be safely recovered.

Kato, for his part, said that the only way to free the kidnapped soldiers was by "military intervention" like that seen in 'Operation Eagle,' launched in August of last year after 16 Egyptian border guards were killed by unidentified assailants.

'Operation Eagle,' initially intended to secure vital establishments in the Sinai Peninsula, ultimately became a combat engagement with Sinai-based militants, Kato explained, with the aim of "quashing terrorist and criminal activity."

Similarly, Kato explained, the current deployment "doesn't only aim to free the soldiers and arrest the kidnappers, but will continue for several weeks in an effort to track down criminals and eliminate terrorist hotspots."

Commenting on the army's deployment on Monday of armoured vehicles and personnel carriers in North Sinai, Kato asserted that the move would not have any negative impact on Egypt's Camp David peace accords with Israel, which tightly limit the number of Egyptian troops deployed in the border area.

"Egypt doesn't pay attention to the accords when its national security is under threat," he said. "The military is obliged to defend the land and fight terrorism."

Under the terms of the 1979 peace treaty, Sinai is divided into three regions, in each of which Egypt is allowed to deploy limited numbers of troops and armaments. Area C, the region closest to Israel, is subject to the tightest deployment restrictions, according to the treaty.

Kato asserts that the methods used by last Thursday's kidnappers are in line with those used by Al-Qaeda and other Takfiri groups.

The seven kidnapped soldiers include one member of the armed forces, four from port security and two from state security.

Following the kidnapping, a security source stated that the perpetrators had demanded the release of Sinai-based militants arrested by authorities almost two years ago.

A video released on Sunday reiterated the same demands listed by the blind-folded hostages.

The militants were convicted of killing five security officers and one civilian during attacks in June/July 2011 on a police station in the city of Al-Arish and a North Sinai branch of the Bank of Alexandria.

A total of 25 individuals were charged in the case.

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