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Russia, Egypt conduct first-ever joint military drills in Africa

The joint military drills will continue until October 26 [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 20 October, 2016

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Bilateral war drills in Egypt are underway as part of Cairo and Moscow's agreement on bolstering their joint response to terror threats.

Russia and Egypt are conducting the first ever joint military drills between the two nations in Africa, with over 30 nations observing the exercise that began on October 15.

A wide range of military gear is being utilised by both countries, including Egypt's Casa and C130 and Russia's IL-76mg transporter planes, Russia's defence ministry said. Some 200 troops are also enacting parachute drops over Alexandria, the type used during times of war.

The ongoing drills, dubbed 'Friendship-Defenders 2016' are part of a bilateral agreement to strengthen joint response to terrorism.

According to Russian military sources cited by Kremlin-sponsored news outlet RT, the drills are focussing on special operations and hostage rescue in an urban environment.

While joint military drills are traditionally carried out in preparation for war against state actors rather than terror groups, this perhaps reflects the changing nature of global terror that countries are facing.

The Islamic State group, for instance, currently operates its own army and intelligence units around the world, thus giving it the vague pretence of a state.

IS has carved out a significant presence in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, having carried out numerous attacks on Egyptian civilians, foreigners and security forces. The IS group's Egyptian wing also claimed responsibility for the bombing of a Russian airliner in November 2015, killing all 224 people on board.

The anti-terror policies of both Egypt and Russia, however, have been at the centre of much criticism. While Egypt has used the guise of domestic counter-terrorism to jail political dissidents, Russia has supported Syria's regime in bombing what it says are "terrorist" positions in Syria. Russia's campaign in Syria has drawn accusations of war crimes from world leaders and human rights groups.

The miltary drills currently underway were preceded by a joint Egyptian-Russian naval drills in the Mediterranean in June 2015.

The present exercise is due to conclude on October 26. 

Warming relations between Cairo and Moscow have also produced accusations Egypt is aligning itself to the latter's policy on Syria and elsewhere. Cairo recently voted in favour of a Russian draft resolution at the UN concerning Aleppo, causing a crisis with ally Saudi Arabia.

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