Arab army chiefs meet to plan regional force

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Islamic State. (File, AP)Army chiefs from Arab League nations met in Cairo on Wednesday to start work on the establishment of a region-wide military force aimed at combating jihadists including the Islamic State group.

The regional bloc agreed in March to set up the force, with member states given four months to hammer out the details over its composition and precise rules of engagement.

Wednesday’s meeting was overseen by the Egyptian Armed Forces’ Chief of Staff Mahmud Hegazy, an AFP journalist said.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi pushed for the creation of the regional force after the Islamic State organisation executed a group of Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya in February, prompting retaliatory air strikes by Cairo.

The plan gained further momentum after Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies launched air strikes on Iran-backed Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen.

“The creation of a joint Arab force in no way aims to form a new alliance or army hostile to any country, but a force to fight terrorism and maintain security, peace and stability in the region,” Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi said in a speech Wednesday.

ISIS has carried out widespread atrocities in the region and won the support of several other jihadist organisations.

On Sunday it released a video purportedly showing the execution of about 30 Ethiopian Christians captured in Libya.

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