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World

REUTERS
March 14, 2018

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Stability still elusive as Egypt’s Sisi poised for second term

CAIRO: The attack by Islamic State came as Egypt´s defence and interior ministers walked towards a helicopter waiting to fly them out of the Sinai peninsula last December. Five army and police sources told Reuters that the militants fired a laser-guided missile at the aircraft, destroying it.

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The ministers survived the Al-Arish air base attack, whose sophistication and boldness served as a reminder that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, expected to easily win re-election this month, is still engaged in a major military campaign to deliver the security he has promised to Egyptians. Even with widespread public support, Sisi´s security forces have yet to quash a stubborn insurgency in Sinai, an area that Islamic State is using as a base in its campaign to install an Islamic caliphate in Egypt.

The United Nations singled out Islamic State in Egypt in a January report from its secretary general, expressing concern over the branch’s ‘resilience.’The military mentioned the attack in a brief statement the day it happened but did not give details. A military spokesman, who also speaks on behalf of the defence ministry, later declined further comment on the attack. The Interior Ministry did not respond to telephone calls or reply to questions on Whatsapp about the helicopter attack.

The military previously has said that it has killed more than 1,800 jihadists in the area since late 2014, according to a Reuters review of its public statements over the period. Last month, the army launched a highly publicized offensive, and says it has killed scores of suspected fighters and detained hundreds more in Sinai, the main stronghold of Islamic State after their defeat in Libya, Iraq and Syria. The military says the new campaign features unprecedented coordination between the army, navy and air force in Sinai, and that these tactics should help it clear the peninsula of militants. Sisi´s supporters argue that the security situation now, although not completely secure, is better and more predictable than the unrest that rocked Egypt for years after the Arab Spring uprising of 2011. Sisi´s office did not respond to requests for comment about the security situation. But years of military action in the Sinai have not stopped Islamist fighters launching attacks intended to destabilise the government and stir up unrest.In the past four months, they have carried out two spectacular assaults there - on the air base on Dec. 19, and at a mosque on Nov. 24, killing more than 300 people.

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