CAIRO, April 28 - A project to develop Egypt's restive Sinai peninsula should be completed by 2022 at a cost of some 275 billion Egyptian pounds ($15.6 billion), a presidential aide said on Saturday, describing the scheme as "a project for national security."
The cost estimated by Ibrahim Mehleb, a presidential aide for national and strategic projects and former prime minister, is almost three times that given by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi when the project was announced in December.
Islamist militants have been waging an insurgency for years in the north of the peninsula, which lacks basic infrastructure and job opportunities. In contrast, the region's southern coast is peppered with Red Sea tourist resorts.
The project includes plans for a comprehensive network of roads, residential and industrial developments, four water desalination plants, hospitals and sewage networks, Mehleb said.
"The Sinai development project is a project for national security," he said.
Financing sources for the initiative remain unclear.
Egyptian security forces launched a large-scale security operation in February to crush jihadists who have waged an insurgency that has killed hundreds of soldiers, police and residents over many years.
Security forces have battled Islamist militants in the mainly desert region, stretching from the Suez Canal eastwards to the Gaza Strip and Israel, since 2013. ($1 = 17.6600 Egyptian pounds)