Egypt's president predicts long war against Sinai militants

2016-10-15 18:00
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (File: AFP)

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (File: AFP)

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Cairo - Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in comments published on Saturday that his country's war against Islamic militants in the Sinai Peninsula would be long, but that conditions in the vast and arid region were improving.

In an interview with Egypt's three state-owned newspapers, he acknowledged that both the militants and government forces were getting better at fighting each other in the strategic area bordering Israel and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

"Conditions in Sinai are improving and (our) efforts are continuing because the war is long," said Sisi, whose comments came one day after Islamic State militants attacked an army checkpoint in Sinai, killing 12 soldiers and wounding at least six more.

"The terrorists are evolving and we are improving our operations," he said.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement Saturday, saying its fighters killed 20 "apostates" and seized all weapons at the checkpoint, located about 80km east of the Suez Canal, near the town of Bir el-Abd.

Gun battle 

The Egyptian military said on Friday that troops killed 15 militants in a gun battle at the checkpoint. The ISIS statement said its fighters had "returned safely" to their base.

Journalists have had virtually no access to northern Sinai in recent years.

Responding to criticism that the military might be distracted by its growing involvement in large civilian infrastructure projects, Sisi sought to reassure Egyptians that the armed forces remain committed to their core task.

He said the military's role in the economy would "recede" in coming years, adding: "Rest assured the armed forces are capable and qualified to protect Egypt."

Sisi was Egypt's top general when he led the overthrow of Mohammed Morsi, an elected but divisive Islamist president, in 2013. Sisi was elected president the following year.

Read more on:    isis  |  abdel fattah al-sisi  |  egypt  |  north africa

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