Last September an unknown colonel named Ahmed Mohamed Ali stepped out before the cameras, to hold a press conference at the culmination of the Egyptian
army's "terrorist cleansing" operation in Sinai.
The Sinai operation
was conducted in the wake of a deadly terror attack in Rafah that left 16 Egyptian Border Guard officers dead,
and its achievements were the focal point of the press conference. However, the event also marked a turning point for the Egyptian army, which had for the first time appointed a permanent spokesperson to serve as the armed forces' official mouthpiece.
"Our goal is to offer the Egyptian people coverage of everything important that is happening in the army," Ali explained during the press conference, then proceeded to exhibit a slew of maps and statistics in an attempt to put an end to the disinformation being disseminated by Egyptian media regarding the operation in Sinai.
Tense, sweaty. Ahmad Ali. (Photo: AP)
Ali finished his studies at Egypt's military college in 1991. Afterwards he served in the Egyptian army's infantry corps, where he held various positions, including regiment commander. He then assumed a position with the military college's teaching facility, as well as that of the army's general command and officer's school.
He also possesses several academic degrees in the field of security and has taught in the US and the UK.
The former General Sameh Seep al-Yazil, head of Center for Strategic Studies in Egypt, said of Ali's appointment that it is "a good step, despite the fact it suffered many delays." According to him, "the connection between the army and media is intended to completely dispel rumors."
Over the years, Egyptians came to know a string of wartime spokesmen, such as during the Yom Kippur War.
According to Yazil, Ali is the first spokesperson to be appointed after the January 2011 revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak's
regime; prior to the revolution, the position was held by generals who were part of the country's highest security council but had no real orientation or training, like General Ismail Utman.
Ali was chosen to be the mouth and face of the Egyptian army from a group of ten people specifically trained for the position over an eight month period. The army internalized the need to have an official and professional spokesperson in wake of the waves of criticism it has endured due to the behavior of its generals, whose appearance and responses were not well received by the public.
One of the most important steps taken by Ali was to open an official Facebook page, through which the army can directly communicate with Egyptian citizens. Since it was first launched, the page has been a phenomenal success boasting over 844,000 'likes' (and counting). Egyptian media keep a close and attentive watch of the statuses published by the army, often resulting in army related articles and reports.
Official Egyptian army Facebook. 844,633 likes
Lately, in wake of the army's recent surge of activity against radical jihad groups in the Sinai Peninsula, Ali has been trying to present the army's side of the events as well as its achievements.
Last Friday for example, while foreign media outlets were reporting that an Israeli
Air Force drone attacked a rocket launching terrorist cell in Sinai, Ali was quick to post a status denying the reports. He also used the Facebook page to ward off claims of coordination between the Israeli and Egyptian armies during the Sinai operation.
The army's spokesperson makes sure to update the Facebook page on a daily basis according to developments on the ground. Last May, when seven Egyptian soldiers were kidnapped in Sinai by armed terrorists, he supplied constant updates up to their release.
Since former-President Mohamed Morsi's
more than a month and a half ago, Ali has been offering reports of the state of affairs in the country as they are seen from the Egyptian army's perspective.
A few days after army chief General Abdel al-Sisi deposed
the Muslim Brotherhood president, Ali was faced with a daunting task: Hundreds of people were dead, the Islamists claimed, calling the event "the army's massacre". Ali promptly convened a press conference and claimed that pro-Morsi media outlets were broadcasting images of dead bodies from Syria
and not Egypt. He further claimed that the army had only returned fire after protesters began firing at them with hunting rifles.
Also published on the army's Facebook page were pictures from the meetings held by senior army commanders and General al-Sisi, videos and images of the army's destruction of Gaza tunnels and large hauls of munitions captured by the armed forces. The spokesperson has also posted imagery from massive pro-army protests.
Every status posted by the army garners thousands of 'likes' and Ali has been interviewed by both Arab and international media.
- Receive Ynetnews updates
directly to your desktop