CAIRO: Egypt’s military ruler insisted on Wednesday that Sinai was "100 percent" under control, the official MENA news agency reported, a day after the US Pentagon chief urged him to secure the restive peninsula.
Field Marshal Hussein Tantawy, in charge of Egypt since a popular revolt ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February, has sought to quell a rise in militant attacks in the peninsula since the overthrow.
"The military situation in Sinai is 100 percent secure," MENA quoted Tantawy as saying.
On a visit to Cairo on Tuesday, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said he "strongly urged" Tantawi "to provide better security in the Sinai," where militants blew up a gas pipeline to Israel last month for the sixth time since February.
And neighboring Israel, which signed a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979, said militants behind deadly ambushes in its southern Negev desert in August had infiltrated the country from the Sinai.
Under the peace treaty, Egypt is not allowed a military presence in parts of the peninsula, which also neighbors the Palestinian Islamist-controlled Gaza Strip to the north.
Tantawy said the military was "in full control" of the districts in which it has a permanent presence under the treaty.
He added that troops were sent to the demilitarized areas after "we discovered that the security situation in Sinai was unstable." Israel approved the deployments.
The military sent tanks and armored vehicles backed by more than 1,000 soldiers and policemen to the peninsula in August to crack down on Islamist militants behind the pipeline bombings and attacks on police stations.
The sparsely populated region has some of Egypt’s most lucrative tourist areas as well as being home to its mostly poor and disaffected Bedouin population.