Dressed in military fatigues, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi visited the Sinai Peninsula on Saturday for the first time since Sinai-based insurgents, affiliates of Islamic State, killed 17 Egyptian soldiers. Sisi's visit was carried out under heavy security and with the utmost discretion and the trip was under a publication ban until the president returned to Cairo. "I have come to salute the heroes of the armed forces and to express to them my recognition," he was quoted by the army's spokesman as saying, AFP reported. The president's office said he was "inspecting troops and police in the North Sinai," without specifying where in the restive area he was visiting.
"We are still recovering the bodies of terrorists from the latest attack," he said. After the insurgents' assault, the Egyptian military killed 35 Islamist militants in North Sinai on Thursday. Media sources in Egypt reported that the Egyptian Air Force continued to attack the Islamic State affiliate in the peninsula. In the area around the town of Sheikh Zuweid two high ranking field commanders were killed along with an unspecified number of other Islamist fighters. In one of the villages near Sheikh Zuweid three members of the same family died when a mortar shell hit their house. Sisi said he saluted "every home, every mother whose child has died a martyr or been wounded for Egypt," AFP reported. Egyptian and Libyan security sources told London based Arabic newspaper Asharq al Awsat that dozens of Islamic State fighters have moved from Libya to Egypt in past months. The sources assessed that some of these transplants took part in the recent terror attacks in Cairo and the Sinai. The Sinai-based insurgents have stepped up attacks on soldiers and police since then-army Sisi toppled Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in 2013 exactly two years ago after mass protests against his rule. Sisi says the pro-Islamic State group Sinai Province, and other militant factions, pose an existential threat to Egypt, other Arab states and the West.The militants' assault on Wednesday, a significant increase in violence in the peninsula between Israel, the Gaza Strip and the Suez Canal, was the second major attack in Egypt this week. On Monday, a car bomb killed the prosecutor-general in Cairo, the highest-profile official to die since the insurgency began.
Alleged video of today"s Sinai attacks surfaces on social media