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September 22, 2017

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Egypt's President Sissi apologizes to hospitalized sex attack victim

CAIRO--Bearing red flowers, Egypt's newly sworn-in president on Wednesday apologized in person to a woman who was sexually assaulted by a mob during weekend celebrations marking his inauguration.

State television showed a visibly moved Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi visiting the woman in a Cairo hospital.

"I have come to tell you and every Egyptian woman that I am sorry. I am apologizing to every Egyptian woman," Sissi, a former military chief who ousted the country's first elected president nearly a year ago, said as he stood by the woman's bed. "Don't be upset," he told her.

Several women were assaulted during Sunday's inaugural festivities in Cairo's central Tahrir square. The attacks were a grim reminder of one of Egyptian society's darkest sides and coincided with Sissi starring in carefully choreographed ceremonies held at two of the capital's most opulent presidential palaces and attended by hundreds of local and foreign dignitaries.

Sissi said it was unacceptable for sexual assaults to take place in Egypt and vowed to take "very decisive measures" to combat the crime.

"I tell the judiciary that our honor is being violated on the streets and that is not right. It is not unacceptable, even if it is one case," said the president, who spoke a day after he ordered a crackdown on sexual harassment, which he described as an "alien phenomenon" in Egypt. He also called for the restoration of the "real and moral" values on the country's streets.

Presidential spokesman Ehab Badawi, meanwhile, said Sissi has instructed Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab to set up a ministerial committee to look into the problem and devise a national strategy to combat it.

The Interior Ministry, which is in charge of police, said on Monday it had has arrested seven suspects ages 15 to 49 in connection with the sexual harassment that occurred during Sunday's celebrations. Three of those men have been charged with sexual assault under the threat of force and attempted rape, according to a statement issued by the nation's chief prosecutor, Hesham Barakat.

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