CAIRO — Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has defended his country’s fight against the Islamic State group, after dozens of Christian families fled the Sinai Peninsula following a string of jihadist attacks.
An IS affiliate waging an insurgency in the Sinai last week released a video calling for attacks on Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority.
Dozens of families have left the peninsula after seven Christians were killed in suspected jihadist attacks, including a Copt murdered in the north Sinai city of El-Arish whose house was also burned.
“(The attacks aim to) destabilize the fabric of Egypt… to give the impression that one group isn’t protected as it should be,” Sissi said in remarks broadcast on television late Tuesday.
“(The attacks make) people say that Egyptians are targeted in El-Arish and we are beginning to disunite. Some accuse the state of not helping them.”
Copts, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 90-million population, say they are sidelined in both the education system and state institutions.
Jihadists and Islamists accuse them of supporting the military overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, which ushered in a deadly crackdown on his supporters.
The IS video last week included an anti-Christian speech by a militant who later detonated an explosive vest in a Coptic church in Cairo last December 11, killing 29 people.
“You say ‘don’t abandon the Sinai’. At a state level, that means the mobilization of army and police forces,” Sissi said.
He said Egypt was bearing a “huge cost” in battling IS, and paid tribute to army and police “martyrs” killed in north Sinai.
The former army chief said security services were doing their utmost to protect civilians in the region.
“We are like a surgeon who wants to remove the danger without damaging the rest of the patient,” Sissi said.
The Times of Israel covers one of the most complicated, and contentious, parts of the world. Determined to keep readers fully informed and enable them to form and flesh out their own opinions, The Times of Israel has gradually established itself as the leading source of independent and fair-minded journalism on Israel, the region and the Jewish world.
We've achieved this by investing ever-greater resources in our journalism while keeping all of the content on our site free.
Unlike many other news sites, we have not put up a paywall. But we would like to invite readers who can afford to do so, and for whom The Times of Israel has become important, to help support our journalism by joining The Times of Israel Community. Join now and for as little as $6 a month you can both help ensure our ongoing investment in quality journalism, and enjoy special status and benefits as a Times of Israel Community member.