Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi has defended his government’s strategy in the fight against jihadists in Sinai Peninsula, where dozens of Christians have fled after a string of jihadist attacks.
A series of jihadist attacks have claimed the lives of seven Copts since the end of January in the city of Al-Arich leading to dozens of Christian families leaving the area.
The Islamic state (IS) jihadist group through its local branch in the northern Sinai peninsula, published a video last week in which it vowed to target the Christian community in Egypt.
“These attacks are aimed at “destabilizing the (social) fabric (…), giving the impression that people are not adequately protected,” President Sissi said in a statement broadcast by the public television on Tuesday night.
The Egyptian leader defended himself from abandoning the Copts, assuring that the army and police forces had been “mobilized” against the jihadists.
“The attacks make people say that Egyptians are targeted in Al-Arich so that they can accuse the state of not helping them,” Sisi added, referring to the Christians without directly quoting them.
He stressed the enormous costs incurred by the state in the fight against the jihadists and also paid tribute to police and army “martyrs” who have fallen in combat in the north of Sinai.
“I was offered a plan to evacuate the entire city of Al-Arich… empty the entire region to facilitate military operations,” the president said. “But we said no. We will let people to continue living there.”
“We are like a surgeon who wants to remove the danger without damaging the rest of the patient,” Sisi said.
Since the army dismissed in 2013 the Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, the Sinai region has been the scene of almost daily jihadist attacks aimed at police and the army.
The Copts, who make up 10 percent of the 92 million Egyptians, have previously been targeted in Sinai, but the jihadist attacks have increased since the video was broadcast.
In December, the IS claimed responsibility of a suicide attack on a Coptic Orthodox church in Cairo, which killed 29 people.