Cairo: Egypt has created a “national council” to combat the rise of Islamist “terrorism” which has targeted its security forces and Coptic Christian minority, in a presidential decree issued on Wednesday.
The decree, published in Egypt’s official gazette, sets up a “national council to combat terrorism and extremism” by adopting a “global national strategy”.
The council is to be chaired by President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi and will comprise the Shaikh of Al Azhar, the highest Sunni religious authority in Egypt, and its Coptic pope, as well as the parliament speaker, premier and cabinet members, including the youth and sports minister.
A primary task of the high-powered panel will be to develop “job opportunities in the regions hit by extremism”, to examine the prospects for industrial zones and of amendments to existing legislation.
Egypt has been fighting an insurgency waged by Daesh based in North Sinai province, where hundreds of soldiers and policemen have been killed since the military’s ouster in 2013 of Al Sissi’s Islamist predecessor Mohammad Mursi.
The Sinai-based Daesh affiliate has mainly attacked police and soldiers, but has also claimed bombings that killed civilians, including the downing of a Russian passenger plane over the Sinai in 2015, which killed all 224 people on board and devastated Egypt’s tourism industry.
At the same time, new groups have attacked security forces in other parts of the country, including the Hasam group — an extremist movement the government says is linked to Mursi’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
Daesh militants have killed dozens of Copts in church bombings and shooting attacks in Egypt since December, and the group has threatened further attacks.
Earlier this month, Egypt’s Coptic and Evangelical Churches suspended some of their activities for security reasons after a spate of extremist attacks.
The extremists have threatened to carry out further attacks on Christians, who make up about 10 per cent of Egypt’s 90 million people.
Since December, Daesh suicide bombers have targeted three Coptic churches, killing dozens of people.
And in May, Daesh claimed responsibility for shooting dead at least 28 Copts as they travelled to a monastery.
In the deadliest attack in April, Daesh claimed responsibility for two simultaneous blasts in churches in Tanta and Cairo killing over 40 worshippers.
“The attack ... will only harden the determination [of the Egyptian people] to move forward on their trajectory to realise security, stability and comprehensive development,” Al Sissi said at the time.
He also called for a three-month state of emergency.