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Egypt mourns Sinai victims
January 31, 2015, 5:29 am

El-Sisi cut short his participation at the Addis Ababa African Union Summit and returned to Cairo to attend funeral proceedings for the victims of Thursday's terrorist attack [Xinhua]

El-Sisi cut short his participation at the Addis Ababa African Union Summit and returned to Cairo to attend funeral proceedings for the victims of Thursday’s terrorist attack [Xinhua]

Egyptians were reeling on Saturday, a day after they buried the soldiers, policemen and civilians who were killed in a coordinated terrorist attack in the Sinai earlier in the week.

State TV broadcast patriotic songs depicting the army in military exercises while government-controlled radio interviewed security officials who vowed to crack down on terrorism in the Sinai Peninsula.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi cut short his participation at an African Union summit in Addis Ababa and returned to Cairo.

The Office of the Presidency said El-Sisi met with Ethiopian leaders shortly after the Summit’s inauguration and flew home to pay his respects to the dead and visit their families.

The Interior Ministry said at least 33 people, mostly soldiers were killed; 62 civilians were also wounded in the attacks.

Late on Friday, Egyptian media quoting Health Ministry officials said that two children were killed in the crossfire between Islamist militants and the army.

The youngest victim was only six months old, a health ministry account said.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and the Security Council condemned the Sinai attacks.

“The members of the (UN) Security Council reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, and that any act of terrorism is criminal and unjustifiable regardless of their motivation, wherever and whenever and by whomsoever committed,” a statement said.

A US State Department statement also condemned the attacks and said “We express our sincere condolences to the victims, their families, and the government and people of Egypt”.

ISIL connection

Ansar Beit al Maqdis (Vanguards of Jerusalem), which recently declared allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), claimed responsibility for the Thursday attacks which targeted a military barracks, a hostel used by soldiers, and a number of checkpoints in the peninsula.

The Ansar group had previously waged a low-level guerrilla war against the Egyptian state, but in October it changed tactics by launching well-planned attacks that killed 32 soldiers.

Cairo immediately declared a state of emergency in the Sinai.

Military analysts fear that by associating with ISIL, the Ansar group may now be employing tactics used by extremists in Iraq and Syria.

Targeting hostels and cafes frequented by military personnel has long been a staple of terrorist groups in Iraq.

There are also concerns that the civil war between Islamist militias in neighboring Libya – an ISIL affiliated group claimed responsibility for a deadly attack against foreigners in a hotel in the capital Tripoli a few days ago – may be spilling over into Egypt.

Egyptian consular facilities in Libya have been attacked since Tripoli fell to an Islamist faction known as Libya Dawn last August.

The Sinai attacks end a bloody week which began with a crackdown on protesters marking the fourth anniversary of the January 2011 revolution.

At least 25 protesters, including a prominent activist, were killed last Sunday, and hundreds arrested under a controversial 2013 anti-protest law.

The BRICS POST with inputs from Agencies

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