Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi has not attended a funeral in Cairo for the 16 soldiers killed in an attack on a border army outpost near the Gaza Strip.
The military funeral was on Tuesday attended by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the defence minister and head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, who was joined on Tuesday by senior government officials and generals in a brief procession that followed the caskets.
Thousands of Egyptians were at the ceremony, which was broadcast live on state television. Some of the mourners shouted slogans against Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood for their links to the Palestinian movement Hamas.
“Every Egyptian feels this attack was directed against them. They all want vengeance, and there must be blood for blood,” a presenter said during the broadcast.
State media reported earlier that Morsi would attend the ceremony. A presidential spokesman was to brief the press later on Tuesday to explain Morsi’s decision to miss the funeral, the state-run newspaper Al Ahram reported online.
Three days of mourning
The funeral began at an army mosque in the eastern Cairo area of Nasr City where the bodies of the dead soldiers were draped in the national flag.
Morsi announced on Monday three days of national mourning for the soldiers, who were killed by attackers in Bedouin attire on Sunday in the Rafah border town in the Sinai Peninsula.
For its part, Egypt’s military pledged to hunt down those behind the killing.
It described the attackers as “enemies of the nation” who must be dealt with by force and suggested they were Sinai-based Egyptian fighters who received Palestinian support from the Gaza Strip.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the Sinai attack.
Egypt and Israel say both Islamist fighters from the Sinai and Palestinian allies from the Gaza Strip are active in northern Sinai, attacking both Egyptian security forces and staging raids across the border into Israel.
The Egyptian armed forces’ statement suggested that groups on both sides of the border may have been involved.
“The armed forces have been careful in the past months and during the events of the [Egyptian] revolution [in 2011] not to shed Egyptian blood … but the group that staged yesterday’s attack is considered by the armed forces as enemies of the nation who must be dealt with by force,” it said.