Egypt's president acknowledges close co-operation with Israel in Sinai


Egypt's President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has said his military was closely cooperating with Israel in operations against militants in Sinai, in the first acknowledgement by a senior official
about such a sensitive issue in Egypt.

"The air force sometimes needs to cross to the Israeli side. An that's why we have a wide range of coordination with the Israelis," al-Sisi said in an interview with the "60 Minutes" programme broadcast on CBS News on Sunday.

When asked if it was the deepest and closest co-operation that Egypt ever had with Israel, Sisi replied: "That is correct."

Prior to the broadcast of the interview, the network said the Egyptian government tried to stop it going on air.

Responding to a question about why his government could not wipe out terrorists from Sinai with more than 1 billion dollars in US military aid every year, the Egyptian president said: "And why hasn't the US eliminated the terrorists in Afghanistan after 17 years and spending 1 trillion dollars?"

Egypt has seen a spate of attacks targeting security forces, mainly in northern Sinai, since the army's 2013 overthrow of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi.

Al-Sisi denied reports by Human Rights Watch that there are 60,000 political prisoners in Egypt.

"I don't know where they got that figure," he told presenter Scott Pelley in the interview. "I said there are no political prisoners in Egypt. Whenever there is a minority trying to impose their extremist ideology, we have to intervene regardless of their numbers," he added.

Al-Sisi, a former general, has been leading a crackdown on secular and Islamist opposition figures since 2013.    (dpa)

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