Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi said an assault on an army checkpoint in the Sinai Peninsula that killed 30 troops was a “foreign-funded operation” and vowed to take action against militants.
In remarks delivered Saturday ahead of a military funeral for the slain troops, Mr. Sisi said there are foreign powers that want to “break the back of Egypt,” without elaborating. He vowed to take drastic measures to uproot the militants and said Egypt is engaged in an “extensive war” that will last a long time.
Egypt declared a state of emergency and imposed a 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew in the restive northern part of the peninsula after Friday’s assault, the deadliest against the army in decades. The attack involved a car bomb possibly detonated by a suicide attacker, rocket-propelled grenades and roadside bombs placed to target rescuers.
No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but officials said it bore the hallmarks of the militant group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, which has carried out several attacks on security forces since the military overthrew Islamist President Mohammed Morsi last year amid protests against him.
Mr. Sisi said the aim of the attack was to “break the will of Egypt and the Egyptians as well as the will of the Egyptian army, which is considered a pillar of Egypt.”
“All that is happening to us is known to us, and we expected it and talked about it before July 3,” he said, referring to the day last year when he overthrew Mr. Morsi. At the time, Mr. Sisi was defense minister and army chief.
Islamic militants have been battling security forces in Sinai for a decade, but the violence increased after Mr. Morsi’s overthrow. The militants have portrayed the attacks as retaliation for a crackdown by security forces in which hundreds of Mr. Morsi’s supporters have been killed in street clashes and some 20,000 people have been arrested.
The government has blamed much of the violence on Mr. Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which it blacklisted as a terrorist group last year. The Brotherhood, which renounced violence decades ago, has condemned the attacks and denied any involvement.
A Muslim Brotherhood alliance issued a statement Friday offering condolences to the “families of the martyrs and victims of the treacherous coup.”
Earlier Saturday, Mr. Sisi presided over an extraordinary meeting of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to discuss the recent developments in Sinai.
The Council issued a statement reaffirming the armed forces’ “determination to eradicate terrorism from this precious part of Egypt.”
“The Council agreed on a plan formulated by the armed forces to combat terrorism in Sinai and other strategic areas,” the statement said without elaboration.
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