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Egypt officers in Syria for “counterterror exchange”: report

Al-Akhbar claimed that Egyptian troops are embedded throughout Syria, including the Latakia and Hama military airports.

An Egyptian officer instructs his troops during a military exercise in Russia. (AFP/Sergei Venyavsky)

BEIRUT - Another Lebanese daily has claimed that Egyptian officers have deployed to Syria alongside regime forces amid swirling reports on the matter that Cairo denied in late November.

 

“A contingent of Egyptian security and military officers deployed to Syria in the beginning of November as part of a military cooperation program, sponsored by Russia, for the purpose of fighting terrorism,” Al-Akhbar, which is close to Hezbollah, reported Wednesday.

 

The newspaper claimed that the deployment followed Syrian National Security Bureau chief Ali Mamlouk’s trip to Cairo in mid-October, which Syrian state media said focused on “strengthening coordination in the fight against terrorism.”

 

Al-Akhbar said that the Egyptian officers in Syria were deployed across a number of bases, including the Syrian armed forces’ General Staff HQ in Damascus, the Hama military airbase, the Hmeimim military airport where Russia’s air force is based, the T-4 airbase outside Homs, as well as a number of “military operation rooms,” such as the one in Jourin in the Al-Ghab plain straddling the Hama and Latakia provinces.  

 

“The Syrians and Egyptians officers are working on the exchange of experiences among themselves, especially the transfer of the Syrian army's experiences in the fighting against terrorism Egyptian army battling terrorism in the Sinai Peninsula,” the report further claimed.

 

“The number of Egyptian [military officers] on Syrian territory could reach up to 200 by the end of 2016,” the report also said, adding that “an Egyptian naval frigate will arrive in Tartus with an engineering battalion on board.”

 

According to Al-Akhbar, the engineering battalion will soon swing into action in Aleppo to defuse improvise explosive devices “in full coordination with Syrian and Russian troops.”

 

Egypt has yet to comment on the Al-Akhbar article, however it previously denied media reports that its officers were deployed in Syria, saying on November 27 that “these claims only exist in the imagination of those promoting them.”

 

Days earlier, another pro-Assad Lebanese newspaper, As-Safir, reported that Egypt sent a contingent of officers to Syria, including 18 helicopter pilots deployed in the Hama military airbase.

 

A source also told the newspaper that Cairo was set to deploy a larger force to Syria starting in January 2017 to take part in military operations alongside regime forces.

 

NOW's English news desk editor Albin Szakola (@AlbinSzakola) wrote this report. Amin Nasr translated Arabic-language material.

An Egyptian officer instructs his troops during a military exercise in Russia. (AFP/Sergei Venyavsky)

A contingent of Egyptian security and military officers deployed to Syria in the beginning of November as part of a military cooperation program.