CAIRO, Egypt– Dressed in army fatigues with a tag name “President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi,” the Egyptian President visited North Sinai on Saturday, boosting Egyptian troops morale. It was a surprise and discreet visit by President Sisi, two days after Islamic State affiliate Sinai Province killed 17 Egyptian military members in simultaneous attacks at 5 military checkpoints in Northern Sinai.
President Sisi praised the troops for their efforts in the Sinai, where more than 100 militants had been killed in the last two days. Egyptian military Chief of the Staff Mahmoud Hegazy accompanied President Sisi on his visit, where they received an update on the security measures.
“The group had tried to announce “an Islamic state, in their concept, an Islamic State in Sinai,” he said. “These are the messages, very simply, that they are putting out to us,” adding that the area was now under control.”
“No one can impose on the Egyptians something they don’t want,” he said. “To reach the Egyptians they have to pass through the army, the sons of Egypt”, Associated Press reported.
One Egyptian spoke about President Sisi’s visit saying, “President Sisi’s visit today had an extremely positive effect on the morale of the Egyptians. It boosted the morale of the Egyptian people to see their President in a war zone which affirmed the choice of choosing this man during such a difficult period of time for Egypt.”
He continued, “Going to North Sinai is something not to be taken lightly. Egyptians feel that we need a brave man to take us to the safe zone again. Egyptians are emotional people and such an act gives us faith that Egypt with President Sisi will move forward in the next few years. We think that having such a leadership makes us sure that will definitely win this war against terrorism.”
The Egyptian military launched airstrikes in North Sinai on Thursday, killing 35 militants after Wednesday’s attack where over 100 militants were killed by the Egyptian military. Egyptian military spokesman Brigadier General Mohamed Samir said late Wednesday that “no one, whoever he is, will be able to control even one millimeter of Sinai or any part of Egypt while the Egyptian army and police exist.”
“They [Islamic State] want to control and take territory in Sinai but the Egyptian military, will never let that happen,” said one Egyptian observer.
Videos were released by the Egyptian military on their official Facebook page of the deadly Sinai attacks.
There is an underlining sentiment here in Egypt pressuring the Egyptian government and military to use all the necessary means to defeat terrorism after the assassination of Egypt’s top prosecutor Hisham Barakat and the attacks in the Sinai that killed 17 Egyptian military members.
One observer stated that “people in the streets are boiling… if justice is not done swiftly by the government, there is a fear that people will take justice into their own hands.”
Many Egyptians blame the Muslim Brotherhood for the recent attacks in the Sinai and the assassination of General Prosecutor Hisham Barakat. Egyptian TV plays videos of Egypt’s history of terrorism, starting with the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928 and showing how the Muslim Brotherhood is has been the mother group of a vast array of Islamist terrorist organizations, including Islamic State.
The Associated Press reported, “The Egyptian Foreign Ministry blamed all the past week’s violence on the Brotherhood, which it said was not only the main source of Islamic extremism, but also coordinated operations on the ground.”
“All of these attacks were conducted days apart, and showed a level of sophistication and coordination that affirms the presence of organized terrorist activity perpetrated by the Muslim Brotherhood,” the AP cites a government statement as explaining.
On Wednesday, Egyptian Special Forces killed 9 members of the Muslim Brotherhood in a raid on a Cairo apartment in the suburb of “6th of October.” Included in those killed was Nasser al-Hafi, a prominent lawyer for the Muslim Brotherhood and a former lawmaker.
It is clear that the nation is united in defeating terrorism here in Egypt and they blame the Muslim Brotherhood for committing the acts of terrorism.
Tera Dahl is Executive Director of the Council on Global Security.