General Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi attending military exercices (Photo: Military spokesman official Facebook page)
Tribesmen should hand over their unlicensed weapons to the authorities, Egyptian army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said on Tuesday.
“I call on tribal leaders not only in Sinai but in every part of Egypt, please hand in your weapons because this is for the benefit of Egypt and its security,” he said in comments published on the army spokesman's Facebook page.
He also called on Egyptians living near Libya to support the army's efforts to secure the border.
Since the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gaddafi, weapons have flooded into Egypt from Libya. Smuggled weapons often fall into the hands of Islamist militants in Sinai who are fighting an insurgency against the interim authorities.
El-Sisi, Egypt's army chief and defence minister, said 1,500 illegal weapons had been confiscated in the past weeks.
His comments were made during military exercises in Egypt’s western military zone.
“We will not allow the presence of groups stronger than the state,” El-Sisi said. “Our blood and our martyrs fall for a just cause against saboteurs and enemies of the nation.”
Since Islamist president Mohamed Morsi was ousted in July, militants have stepped up attacks against security forces, especially in North Sinai where the army says it is waging a 'war against terror'.
“We won’t forget the role of Sinai’s Bedouins in supporting the army. We need you to line up behind your armed forces until we can attract investment to the region and bring work opportunities to its people,” El-Sisi said.
Egypt's close-knit Bedouin tribes have long been in conflict with security forces. They face official discrimination as are barred from owning land, joining the military and living in areas lacking state services.