Egypt’s El-Sisi urges big voter turnout, denies sidelining rivals

Girls walk by a poster of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for the upcoming presidential election, in Cairo, Egypt March 19, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 21 March 2018
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Egypt’s El-Sisi urges big voter turnout, denies sidelining rivals

CAIRO: President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has urged Egyptians to come out in force and vote in next week’s election to show they are in charge, a day after he denied any role in sidelining his political rivals.
The incumbent will stand in the March 26-28 vote against just one candidate whose half-hearted campaign poses little to no threat, after more heavyweight rivals were sidelined or detained.
“I need you because the journey is not over,” Sissi told a mostly female audience in a speech. “I need every lady and mother and sister, please, I need the entire world to see us in the street” voting.
“Even if they vote ‘no’. It’s still a big deal and a respectable thing which will be implemented... We should affirm to the world that this country is ruled by its people.”
The former army chief was first elected in 2014, a year after ousting his predecessor Muhammad Mursi following mass protests against the Islamist.
Critics accuse him of cracking down on dissent, and in the run up to the election a rival, former army chief of staff Sami Anan, was detained shortly after announcing his candidacy.
The army said the reserve general broke the law by illegally declaring his candidacy.
Another potential contender, former premier Ahmed Shafiq, was deported from his exile in the UAE after declaring his candidacy, then taken by government officials to a Cairo hotel where he stayed until he announced a change of heart.
In an Egyptian television interview on Tuesday, Sissi said he had nothing to do with either case, or two other candidates who withdrew from the race citing restrictions.
Another army officer, a colonel, has been sentenced to six years in prison for announcing his candidacy while still enlisted.
“You’re talking to me about something I cannot be blamed for at all. I swear, I wished there were one, or two, or three, or 10 candidates...and you choose whom you want,” he said.
The only candidate left in the race, Moussa Mostafa Moussa, had been a cheerleader for Sissi until the last day before the deadline for candidate registration expired.
His critics say he entered the race to spare Sissi the embarrassment of a one-man election, redolent of the referendums held by autocrats.
Meanwhile, an Egyptian court on Wednesday sentenced in absentia nine alleged Muslim Brotherhood members to life imprisonment for forming a “terrorist cell” to plot attacks on security forces and other institutions.
Life sentences in Egypt are equal to 25 years, and the suspects, who remain at large, can be re-tried once they are apprehended.
The Cairo Criminal Court also sentenced another 13 defendants to 10 years each on similar charges, including planning to kill public figures and security officials, and joining an outlawed group, a reference to the Brotherhood. Two minors were sentenced each to two years. Those 15 suspects are in custody and their sentences can be appealed.
Egypt designated the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization after the 2013’s removal from power of President Muhammad Morsi, a senior Brotherhood figure. Morsi has been jailed and sentenced to death.


US-led coalition destroys Daesh site in Syrian mosque

Updated 3 min 5 sec ago
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US-led coalition destroys Daesh site in Syrian mosque

  • Fighters with the Syrian Democratic Forces secured Hajjin after weeks of heavy fighting
  • The town is located in eastern Syria about 30 kilometers from the border with Iraq

WASHINGTON: US-led coalition forces destroyed a Daesh group command center inside a mosque in the Syrian border town of Hajjin on Saturday, the US military said.
The statement comes as Kurdish-led forces mop up the final remnants of Daesh extremists in Hajjin, the largest settlement in what is the last pocket of territory controlled by the extremists.
More than 16 “heavily armed” Daesh fighters were at the “command and control node” at the mosque when it was destroyed by a “precision strike,” a statement from the Combined Joint Task Force read.
The extremists, who were all killed in the strike, were using the mosque to “command attacks against Coalition partners,” it said.
The Daesh group “continues to use protected structures to launch attacks against our Coalition partners with complete disregard for the infrastructure and innocent human lives,” the statement added.
Fighters with the Syrian Democratic Forces secured Hajjin after weeks of heavy fighting on Friday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The town is located in eastern Syria about 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the border with Iraq.
The area is sometimes referred to as the “Hajjin pocket,” the last rump of a once-sprawling “caliphate” the group proclaimed in 2014 over swathes of Syria and Iraq.