El-Sissi vows to quash terrorism after police ambush
El-Sissi vows to quash terrorism after police ambush
President Abdel Fattah El-Sissi’s remarks came nearly 48 hours after authorities officially announced that at least 16 policemen were killed in a brazen ambush by militants southwest of Cairo. Security officials told the AP and other media outlets that the death toll reached 54, making it one of the worst attacks against Egypt’s police in years. However, it was not immediately possible to reconcile the conflicting reports.
Chairing a meeting attended by the country’s top security officials, including defense and interior ministry representatives, El-Sissi said: “Egypt will continue its confrontation against terrorism and those financing and standing behind it, with strength, decisiveness and efficiency, until it’s curbed.”
His comments come as a cloud of ambiguity still hovers over the police raid gone wrong; a lack of information, charges of incompetence and conflicting accounts by officials to media outlets mark the incident.
The ambush began when security forces acting on intelligence moved against a purported militant hideout some 135 km outside Cairo. Backed by armored personnel carriers and led by senior counterterrorism officers, the police contingent drew fire and rocket-propelled grenades, according to the security officials. What happened next has not been clarified, but many officers were killed and others injured.
According to Egyptian media reports, the fallen policemen were given military funerals that were attended by a number of security officials.
The confusion around the incident sparked a debate on social media, with Egyptians divided over who to blame. Many suggested that the police force had been infiltrated by extremists given that some security officials said the ambush was carefully planned.
Along with conflicting reports of the death toll, authorities have also denied the authenticity of audio recordings, aired by pro-government media outlets, allegedly of policemen who took part in the operation. The speakers on the recordings can be heard pleading for help.
In a statement, the Interior Ministry said that the sources of the audio recordings are not known and that they carried “unrealistic details that have nothing to do with the reality.” It also warned against circulating such recordings and sowing confusion.
No militant group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place near Egypt’s vast western desert, where a previous series of attacks were blamed on militants pouring in from Libya. In addition to those militants, a local affiliate of Daesh is also spearheading an insurgency across the country and in the Sinai Peninsula.
In one of the latest trials involving extremists, an Egyptian criminal court on Sunday confirmed death sentences for 11 men and handed down life sentences to 14 others over charges including the attempted murder of policemen. The court ruling by Judge Mohammed Nagi Shehata — known for his severity — can be appealed. Five of those sentenced to death were tried in absentia.
The suspects were referred to court in 2015.
Trump: Turkey making ‘terrible mistake’
- Turkey has demanded that the US hand over Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric who lives in the US and who Ankara says orchestrated a failed coup attempt
- A Turkish court last week rejected Brunson’s appeal for release, drawing a stiff rebuke from Trump
ISTANBUL: The lira weakened against the dollar on Tuesday after US President Donald Trump said he would give Turkey no concessions in return for the release of a detained American pastor, the latest salvo in a worsening rift between the NATO allies.
In an interview with Reuters on Monday, Trump criticized Ankara over the detention of the evangelical Christian pastor, Andrew Brunson, and said he was not concerned that his tough stance against Turkey could end up hurting European and emerging market economies.
Brunson, who is originally from North Carolina and has lived in Turkey for two decades, has been detained for 21 months on terrorism charges, which he denies. The pastor has become an unwitting flashpoint for the diplomatic tension, which has accelerated the crisis in the lira.
Trump said that, after he helped persuade Israel to free a detained Turkish citizen, he thought Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan would then release Brunson.
“I think they’re making a terrible mistake. There will be no concessions,” Trump said.
The lira weakened to 6.0925 against the US currency by 1111 GMT, from a close of 6.0865 on Monday, when Turkish markets began a holiday to mark the Muslim Eid Al-Adha festival that continues for the rest of this week.
Trade was thinner than usual and probably mainly offshore, with local markets closed for the holiday. The currency has lost 40 percent of its value against the dollar this year. However, selling on Tuesday was limited due to a broadly weaker dollar.
Turkish government officials did not comment on Trump’s remarks when they spoke after prayers to mark the start of the festival.
Devlet Bahceli, leader of a nationalist party allied with Erdogan’s AK Party, told reporters: “We have no business with those who love Brunson more than us.”
Prayers and gifts
Erdogan, who had been expected to speak to reporters after morning prayers, made no public statement.
He has repeatedly cast the currency crisis as an attack on Turkey but has stopped short of singling out any one country.
He prayed on Tuesday morning at a mosque near the tourist resort of Marmaris on the south coast and then handed out gifts to local children, the Milliyet newspaper reported.
He also spoke by phone to soldiers stationed near the border with Iraq, sending them greetings for Eid Al-Adha.
“I believe that as long as you stand tall our flag will not fall, our call to prayer will not fall silent and this homeland of ours will not be divided,” the Hurriyet newspaper reported him as saying.
On Monday, he appealed to Turks’ religious and patriotic feelings ahead of the holiday, promising they would not be brought “to their knees” by the economic crisis.
Turkey has demanded that the US hand over Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric who lives in the US and who Ankara says orchestrated a failed coup attempt, but Washington has balked at this.
A Turkish court last week rejected Brunson’s appeal for release, drawing a stiff rebuke from Trump. The US president — who counts evangelical Christians among his core supporters — has said he would double previously announced tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports.
On Monday Turkey initiated a dispute complaint with the World Trade Organization over the tariffs.
Separately, ratings agency Fitch said on Tuesday that tight liquidity amplified risks for Turkish companies.
Another ratings agency, DBRS, said European banks with Turkey exposure face a manageable capital impact.
Underlining the increased diplomatic tensions between Turkey and the US, the US Embassy in Ankara came under gunfire on Monday. Nobody was injured and Turkish authorities later detained two men over the incident.