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Egypt's Sisi tells military chief to secure Sinai in three months

Egypt's Sisi tells military chief to secure Sinai in three months
November 29, 2017

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Wednesday ordered his military command to use all force necessary to secure the Sinai peninsula within the next three months following a militant attack on a mosque that killed more than 300 people.

No group has claimed responsibility for Friday's mosque attack when militants gunned down worshippers, but Egyptian forces have been battling an Islamic State affiliate for more than three years in North Sinai, where militants have killed hundreds of police and soldiers.

"It is your responsibility to secure and stabilise Sinai within the next three months," Sisi said addressing his new chief of staff in a speech, without giving details on any operations. "You can use all brute force necessary."

Authorities say gunmen carrying an Islamic State flag opened fire inside the mosque after setting off an explosive, shooting worshippers as they fled and killing more than 300 people in the worst militant attack in Egypt's modern history.

The Sinai Province Islamic State branch, which was announced by former fighters from a local jihadist group in 2014, has claimed some of the deadliest attacks in Egypt. It has become one of the group's last holdouts after military defeats in Iraq and Syria.

North Sinai, a mostly desert area stretching from the Suez Canal eastwards to the Gaza Strip and Israel, has long been a security headache for Egypt because of smuggling and is a strategic region because of its sensitive borders.