Egypt's president ready to join fight against militants

2018-03-15 17:17
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (File: AFP)

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (File: AFP)

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Cairo - With less than two weeks before elections, Egypt's president said on Thursday he was prepared to personally join the army and police battling Islamic militants in Sinai, vowing he and his security forces would prosecute the fight until the end.

"I swear by God that I am ready to don combat fatigues and fight side by side" with the security forces, said Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, a general-turned-president. "We either live together, or die together."

The outcome of the March 26-28 election is a foregone conclusion, with Sisi running virtually unopposed. His only challenger is a little-known politician who supports him.

With a landslide win beyond doubt, he and his supporters are urging voters to come out and cast their ballots since a high turnout will accord the vote legitimacy.

El-Sissi also said he would rather win a third of the vote if the turnout is good than every vote with a low turnout. A good turnout, he said in comments made Wednesday, would contribute to the reinforcement of Egypt's stability and freedom.

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Sisi has yet to do any traditional campaigning, such as addressing rallies or appearing in TV ads, apparently opting instead for nationally televised appearances in which he is presiding over official functions.

At a ceremony commemorating troops who fell in the battle against the Islamic State group, Sisi, visibly moved, listened as mothers and widows recounted how their loved ones were killed by militants. He warmly greeted them, briefly chatting with each one.

He hugged the children of the fallen soldiers. A small girl and a boy in military uniform, the children of fallen soldiers, briefly sat next to him.

"It's a price that is dear to us, but not too dear for the sake of Egypt," el-Sissi said, speaking of the fallen.

Egypt's security forces last month launched an all-out offensive against militants, deploying tens of thousands of troops and police backed by fighter-jets, helicopter gunships, navy vessels and tanks in Sinai and in the western desert along the border with Libya.

Egypt has been battling militants for years, but the insurgency gathered steam and grew deadlier after the 2013 ouster by the military, then led by Sisi, of an Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, whose year in office proved divisive.

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

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