Ceremony marks 75 years since WWII Battle of El Alamein
EL ALAMEIN - Delegates from former foes gathered Saturday in the Egyptian town of El Alamein to mark 75 years since the pivotal WWII battle that saw the Allies turn the tables in North Africa.
Officials from 35 nations paid their respects in a ceremony at a Commonwealth cemetery on Egypt's Mediterranean shore that holds the remains of more than 7,000 soldiers from the victorious British-led force.
In a speech, the British ambassador to Egypt, John Casson, called on those present to remember the fallen from 75 years ago and those who are "still dying" in conflicts today.
The anniversary commemoration was partly overshadowed by an Islamist attack Friday on Egyptian security forces some 250 kilometres (155 miles) to the south that killed at least 35 police officers.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi did not attend the main ceremony despite earlier expectations that he would take part, although he was in El Alamein for the commemoration.
"Today's ceremony is a time to remember the human cost of war, and reflect on the importance of working together to build a more peaceful future," Alistair Burt, Britain's junior foreign minister for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement.
The World War II Battle of El Alamein -- which began on October 23, 1942 -- pitched the forces of British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery's against the Afrika Korps of Germany's Erwin Rommel.
The defeat of the German and Italian troops put an end to the ambitions of Hitler and Mussolini to take over the port of Alexandria on the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal.
The battle was a major turning point in the war, halting the advance of the Axis in North Africa and paving the way for the final victory there the following year.
"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning," British leader Winston Churchill said famously in the wake of the victory.
The event on Saturday was attended by representatives from Commonwealth countries that made up the Allied force, including Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa, and those who were their sworn enemies at the time.
Organisers from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission called the commemoration the "largest for many years" and said it "is likely to be the last on this scale".