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Border security is a ‘sacred mission’: Defence minister

More arrested as security campaign in Sinai continues

Minister of Defence Sedki Sobhi (Photo from Army Spokesperson Facebook Page)
Minister of Defence Sedki Sobhi (Photo from Army Spokesperson Facebook Page)

A man suspected of involvement in attacks on security forces was arrested after returning from Gaza through an illegal tunnel, while Defence Minister Sedki Sobhi stressed that “there is no compromising” with border security.

Sobhi said on Sunday that “securing Egypt’s borders and protecting its national security is a sacred mission”, adding that the military is working with “utmost vigilance” to enforce state sovereignty, a statement by the military read.

The arrested man is from Sheikh Zuweid in North Sinai, near the border with Gaza. According to state-run MENA, he has been involved in attacks on the Sheikh Zuweid Police Station and security forces in the area.

Official Turkish press agency Anadolu reported that he belonged to Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, a militant group that has claimed responsibility for many attacks on security forces in the past year, including an assassination attempt on Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim. It was labelled a terrorist organisation by the United States  and by an Egyptian court in April.

The ouster of former president and Muslim Brotherhood politician Mohamed Morsi was followed by a surge in attacks and bombings targeting security forces, whether police or military. Attacks at first were centred in Sinai, but eventually spread to other parts of the country, reaching Mansoura in December and Cairo in January in two deadly attacks on security buildings.

A factsheet prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs places the death toll for terrorist activities since January 2011 to 23 April at 971, including 477 policemen and 187 army personnel.

On Saturday, eight suspects in Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah in Sinai were arrested and security forces destroyed five “terrorist hotspots” and one illegal underground tunnel connecting Egypt to Gaza, in an ongoing security campaign to restore order to the restive peninsula.

According to the military, over 1,660 illegal tunnels have been destroyed in Egypt’s intensified crackdown on the tunneling activity, vital for citizens of the besieged Gaza strip for the movement of both goods and people. This includes 25 tunnels destroyed last week.

At least eight Palestinians “attempting to sneak into Egyptian territory” were also arrested last week.

Egypt has also suffered from security issues at its western border when militants carried out an attack on Al-Farafra checkpoint at the Egyptian-Libyan border last month, killing 22 border guards.

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