The residents of Egypt’s North Sinai governorate are facing further misery after President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi gave security officials the green light to use “all brute force” to gain complete control of the area within three months.
The speech, which came as part of a televised ceremony to mark the birth of the Prophet Mohammed, was the second time since Friday’s deadly mosque attack that the Egyptian leader spoke of using brute force in the war-ravaged area.
“I am mandating Maj. Gen. Mohammed Farid Hegazy before you and the entire people of Egypt to restore security and stability in Sinai,” Sisi said as he looked directly at the General.
“With God’s benevolence and your efforts and sacrifices, you and the police will restore security and use all brute force, all brute force,” he said.
While it is unclear what such force would entail, the Egyptian Army has long been criticized for alleged abuses and extra-judicial killings in the governorate.
The call comes after 305 people, including 27 children, were killed during Friday prayer at the al-Rawdah mosque, near the city of Al-Arish.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack although it is claimed that the attackers carried ISIS banners during the brutal assault.
North Sinai has long been a thorny issue for the government in Cairo.
All non-state media outlets are restricted from covering the governorate, which has been under emergency law since 2014, and local journalists and activists face prison for speaking out.
The Egyptian president has previously said that terror groups benefit from the care taken by the security forces to prevent civilian casualties.
However, many rights groups paint a very different picture and the security forces have regularly stood accused of collective punishment of the residents, who are already caught in the battle between the military and Jihadists.
Lengthy power, water, and phone outages are common and the security forces allegedly carry out forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings with impunity.
As outsiders are rarely allowed access to the area, the alleged crimes often go unpunished and the voices of those terrified by both ISIS and the military are unheard.