Saturday, January 31, 2015

#Egypt paid the price for removing 'terrorist group' at its strongest: #Sisi

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, center, speaks in front of the state-run TV ahead of a military funeral for troops killed in an assault in the Sinai Peninsula, as he stands with army commanders in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said on Saturday that the country is paying the price of choosing to end the rule of a "terrorist group" at its strongest point - referring to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group -- in a speech addressed to the nation after a series of attacks killed at least 30 Egyptians in the Sinai Peninsula on Thursday.

El-Sisi cut short his visit to Ethiopia where he was due to attend an African Union summit after a series of deadly attacks in North Sinai on Thursday claimed scores of lives. Sinai-based militant group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, claimed responsibility for the violence.

"On 21 June (2013) one of the main leaders of this organisation warned me that they would be getting people from all over the world to fight you, from countries like Afganistan, Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Libya," said El-Sisi, apparently referencing the Brotherhood.

Former president Mohamed Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, was ousted in July 2013 following mass protests nationwide against his rule. El-Sisi, then head of Egypt's military, announced Morsi's ouster on 3 July, in coalition with a number of political and religious figures.

El-Sisi said that the Brotherhood has been planning, widening their horizons and establishing a stronghold all over the world, and said that combating the group will take a long time.

He highlighted in his speech that he knew that there would be a "wave of terrorism" after Morsi's ouster.

"We will not leave Sinai to anyone. With your will the army will win its confrontation with the terrorists," El-Sisi said, visibly emotional.

"It was your will on the 30 June 2013 (the date of mass anti-Morsi protests), and it was one of the hardest decisions taken by you; and it's your will that will keep Egypt strong and able to defeat these terrorists," he said.

The president decried the bloodshed but emphasised that the army and the police are able to combat terrorism.

A new military body to combat terrorism in Sinai was formed by presidential decree on Saturday. 

The Egyptian government designated the Brotherhood a terrorist group in December 2013 amid a crackdown that put thousands of its members behind bars. The group's leaders and representatives have denied any links with militant attacks in Sinai or elsewhere.

The Brotherhood issued a statement on Friday saying that the Egyptian army should return to its barracks to end “the shedding of Egyptian blood in Sinai.”