A military funeral was organized on Sunday for at least 21 Armed Forces personnel who were killed in a drive-by shooting on Saturday near the Libyan border and the Farafra oasis.
The shooting took place minutes before the iftar meal to break fast during the holy month of Ramadan, which the soldiers were going to gather for. Local media reported that the attack was launched by a suicide bomber.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi attended the funeral, which was organized at the Almaza military airport, according to the military spokesperson on the Armed Forces’ official Facebook page. Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb, Minister of Defense Sedky Sobhy and Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim were also present.
The spokesman quoted Sisi as saying, “These terrorist attacks won’t harm the will and determination of the Egyptian people and its Armed Forces to uproot terrorism and extremism.” Sisi saluted the dead for their bravery and sacrifice and for their faith in the sacredness of their mission.
The privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm news portal reported that Sisi told the families of the deceased soldiers that he wished he was the one who had died, to which the families responded, “we all sacrifice ourselves for you.” Sisi added that we have one of two choices, either we let people kill each other or we sacrifice men from the military. So, he said, we chose to sacrifice the men of our Armed Forces, who are everyone’s sons. He added that this is the first time Egypt has been fiercely targeted with this kind of terrorism.
Al-Masry Al-Youm reported an interview with a top ranking security officer, who the newspaper met at the scene of the attack. The anonymous officer said that the attack started when a masked man exited a black four-wheel drive in front of a military checkpoint, detonating explosives, while another masked man set fire to the checkpoint.
While the soldiers were dealing with the explosives, other attackers fired RPGs from a Landcruiser behind. An exchange of fire ensued for over an hour, according to the officer, and the soldiers killed two of the attackers. The head of the checkpoint asked for back up, who were also attacked on arrival.
The Armed Forces’ statement said on Saturday that the RPG attack led to the explosion of a warehouse of weaponry at the checkpoint, which is the reason behind the deaths of 22 soldiers.
The heavy weaponry used in the attack was cited as a new phenomenon in terrorist activity in this area of the country.
Al-Masry Al-Youm showed pictures from the scene of the attack, where a black flag associated with Al Qaeda was reportedly found.
Several political groups mourned the soldiers and slammed terrorist activity. In a statement, the Social Democratic Party requested that Sisi and the Armed Forces reveal the details of the attack and the reason behind the high death toll.
Similarly, the Egypt Freedom Party demanded a transparent investigation into the attack, citing another that took place in the same spot less than two months ago.
The Egyptian authorities have reported following up on increased militant activity on the Libyan Egyptian border in the aftermath of the fall of the Muammar al-Qadhafi regime in 2011.
In May, the Armed Forces said six of its men were killed in an exchange of fire in the same area. The Armed Forces back then said that the attack on the officers was in response to a campaign whereby 68 outlaws were reportedly arrested in the Western desert area, while a large amount of weaponry was confiscated.