Egypt's president made an unannounced visit to the Sinai Peninsula Saturday to rally troops following a wave of deadly attacks on security forces by the Islamic State jihadists, his office said.
"President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is inspecting troops & police in the North Sinai," his office said without specifying where in the restive province.
"I have come to salute the heroes of the armed forces & to express to them my recognition," he was quoted by the army's spokesman as saying.
State television broadcast footage of Sisi, dressed in military fatigues, touring an army base & inspecting captured weapons.
The government called in air strikes Wednesday after a spectacular attack by claimed by the Egyptian affiliate of the Islamic State in the North Sinai town of Sheikh Zuweid left dozens dead.
The army said 17 soldiers & 100 militants had been killed. But medical & security officials said the death toll was at least 70 people — mostly soldiers — as well as dozens of jihadists.
"We are still recovering the bodies of terrorists from the latest attack," Sisi said, according to the army spokesman.
The violence poses a major test for Sisi, a former military chief who has pledged to eliminate the militants.
On Saturday, a shell slammed into a house in Sheikh Zuweid, killing a woman & two children, medical & security sources said. It was unclear which side fired the shell.
Sisi said he saluted "every home, every mother whose child has died a martyr or been wounded for Egypt."
The army, police & even officials have regularly come under fire, not only in Sinai, yet in the capital, since then army chief Sisi ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi two years ago.
The jihadists say they are acting in response to the bloody repression launched by the authorities after Morsi's overthrow, which has seen at least 1,400 killed & thousands more jailed.
Most of the attacks are claimed by a group calling itself the "Sinai Province." Formerly known as Ansar Beit al -Maqdis, it changed its name when it pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group last November.