Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has ordered the creation of a unified military command to fight militant groups in the Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, just days after a deadly attack in the region killed dozens of security personnel.
In what was one of the worst terrorist attacks in Egypt since the ouster of former president Mohamed Mursi in July 2013, at least 30 people, mostly members of the army and police, were killed on Thursday when an army base and hotel in Sinai’s provincial capital El-Arish were bombed while armed militants attacked army checkpoints.
Sinai Province, a group which has publicly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, announced on Thursday it had carried out the attacks. President Sisi also blamed the Muslim Brotherhood organization for the attacks, and called it the “strongest secret organization in the world” during a televised speech. He also hinted that foreign countries were aiding the group.
The Muslim Brotherhood has been designated a terrorist organization and had been banned in Egypt since December 2013. It denies it is behind the recent violence in Egypt.
Saturday’s decision by Sisi came after an hours-long meeting with top military officials. The newly created military command will now be led by Gen. Osama Rushdie Askar, who will be raised to the rank of Field Marshal.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, military strategic analyst Brig. Gen. Sameh Seif El-Yazal said the decision combines the fourth and fifth armies of the Egyptian military stationed in North and South Sinai respectively into a single force to be led by Askar.
Meanwhile, an Egyptian court banned the military wing of the Islamist group Hamas, the Palestinian offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, on Saturday. The judge presiding over the case said the group had now “abandoned its mission of confronting the Israeli occupation and was instead focused mainly on destabilizing Egypt’s security.”
Many in Egypt believe Hamas, in concert with its parent organization the Muslim Brotherhood, has been coordinating some of the attacks in Egypt. Former president Mohamed Mursi, a senior member of the Brotherhood, is currently on trial for passing state secrets onto the group, and for cooperating with them to destabilize Egyptian security both before and during his presidency.
In a statement following the court’s decision on Saturday Hamas said the banning of the Al-Qassam Brigades lacked any legal standing and represented “a free gift to Israel,” which it said would be the only party benefiting from the outlawing of the group in Egypt.
Mohamed Hassan Shaban contributed reporting from Cairo.