Egypt has lost more than 3,000 in fight against militants since 2013, says El Sisi

This is the first time an official has given a figure for the number of army and police personnel killed in the years-long battle in northern Sinai

FILE PHOTO - Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi delivers a statement following a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France November 26, 2014. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Picture
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Egypt’s army and police have lost 3,277 men fighting militants since 2013, President Abdel Fattah El Sisi has revealed.

The Egyptian leader said the police and army also saw 12,280 service members sustain injuries that prevented them from returning to active service.

This is the first time any Egyptian government official has given a figure for the number of army and police personnel killed or injured in the years-long battle against militants based in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula.

The war against the militants in northern Sinai has been waged with barely any media access to the rugged region bordering Gaza and Israel, with the army the sole source of information on operations there.

The militants have for years fought against the Egyptian government, but the number of attacks spiked after the 2013 ousting of an Islamist president by the military, led by Mr El Sisi, who was defence minister at the time.

The removal of Mohammed Morsi of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood took place amid mass street protests against his divisive one-year rule.

“I am citing these (casualty) figures lest people forget now that things have quietened down in Sinai,” Mr El Sisi said.

“This country paid a very high price to get to where it is now.”

The army also spent a billion pounds every month on the fight against terrorism from 2013 to 201

The number of attacks in Sinai and elsewhere in Egypt has dramatically dropped in the four years since the army launched a major offensive against militants in Sinai.

“We have settled the issue there, but the cost was very high. We will only declare the end of terrorism in Sinai when we have cleared all the roadside bombs there,” said Mr El Sisi.

The Egyptian leader’s comments were made following an iftar he hosted for several hundred people, including lawmakers, politicians, cabinet ministers and public figures.

A video recording of his comments was released several hours after the event.

Mr El Sisi used the televised event to order the start of a political dialogue on national “priorities” to which representatives of civil society, politicians and youth groups would be invited.

“There will be no exclusion or discrimination (against participants). The findings of the dialogue will be referred to me and I promise to personally attend its final sessions,” Mr El Sisi said.

“I personally wanted this to happen earlier but priorities led to its postponement.”

Mr El Sisi, who has made the economy and security his top priorities since taking office in 2014, gave no details on the aim of the proposed dialogue. He said its recommendations would be referred to parliament to be debated and turned into legislation, if necessary.

Since coming to office, he has led a high-octane and ambitious programme to modernise the country and overhaul its battered economy after years of turmoil in the wake of a 2011 popular uprising.

He has credited his economic reforms for weathering the economic slump caused by the coronavirus pandemic. He has said he is hopeful the economy would also survive the damaging fallout from the Ukraine war.

“We have an economic crisis on our hands, not a problem. The issue greater than the fallout from the Ukraine crisis is stability, security and safety,” he said.

Mr El Sisi’s government has taken a wide range of measures to mitigate the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war which, combined with higher energy prices and supply chain disruptions, has handed Egypt a serious economic crisis.

Egypt relies on Russia and Ukraine for 80 per cent of its vital wheat imports. The war also halted the arrival of visitors from the two warring nations, dealing a body blow to a tourism sector still recovering from the impact of the pandemic.

Dealing with the fallout from the war, Egypt has devalued its currency by 15 per cent against the US dollar, banned the export of several essential foodstuffs and started contacts with the IMF that are likely to produce an agreement on a new set of reforms in exchange for a standby loan.

Egypt’s Gulf Arab allies have spent billions of dollars helping the country, including central bank deposits and investments.

On Tuesday night, Mr El Sisi announced a package of fresh measures to keep afloat the economy, which was shaken by the flight of billions of dollars over the past two months because of the uncertainty created by the Russia-Ukraine war.

He ordered his government to set a programme for the private sector’s participation in state-owned assets, with an annual target of $10 billion for four years, and the listing of army-owned enterprises on the Egyptian stock exchange before the year’s end.

He also ordered stakes in some state-owned companies to be sold.

Updated: June 12, 2023, 11:41 AM