In Wake of Deadly Attack, Egypt's Sissi Orders Army to Secure Sinai Within Three Months

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Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi speaks at the UN General Assembly session on September 19, 2017.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi speaks at the UN General Assembly session on September 19, 2017.Credit: Mary Altaffer/AP

Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi 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. 

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

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

Egypt's military and security forces have been waging a tough and costly campaign against militants in the towns, villages and desert mountains of northern Sinai. Across the country, thousands have been arrested in a crackdown on suspected Islamists and other dissenters and government critics.

In the past year, militants have bombed churches in the capital of Cairo and other cities, killing dozens of Christians.

The Rawda mosque, some 40 kilometers west of El-Arish, after an attack, Sinai, Egypt, November 25, 2017.Credit: STR/AFP

The bloodshed at the Al-Rawdah mosque was the first major militant attack on a Muslim congregation, and it eclipsed violence dating back to an Islamic militant insurgency in the 1990s.

The mosque is frequented by Sufis and is the local headquarters of the prominent Sufi sect, or tareeqah, founded by the local al-Jerir clan, a branch of the powerful Al-Sawarkah tribe.

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