Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El Sisi met his top military commanders on Sunday to review security in the Sinai Peninsula one day after militants killed 11 soldiers including an officer.
Mr El Sisi reviewed with the generals “measures taken to pursue the militants on the run and destroy them” during the meeting of the Supreme Armed Forces Council, the president’s office said.
He also directed the generals to “complete the purge of some areas in northern Sinai from terrorists and takfiris and to continue implementing security measures contributing to the eradication of all forms of terrorism”.
The president’s office said Mr Sisi paid tribute to the armed forces’ counterterrorism efforts in the Sinai Peninsula, a vast and mostly desert region that stretches from the Mediterranean coast in the north to the Red Sea in the south.
The wording of the statement appeared to suggest that a strong response to Saturday’s attack, the deadliest in months, was almost certain. On Saturday the military said troops were pursuing the attackers.
The attack, which occurred just east of the Suez Canal, wounded five soldiers, the military said.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack, which bore the hallmarks of the ISIS-led militants active in the north-east corner of the Sinai Peninsula close to the borders of the Gaza Strip and Israel.
Mr El Sisi, who has made security a cornerstone of his seven-year rule, offered his condolences to the families of the victims and wished the wounded a full and quick recovery.
“These treacherous attacks will not undermine the resolve and will of the sons of this nation and its armed forces to uproot terrorism,” he wrote on Facebook on Saturday.
The UAE, one of Egypt’s closest allies and backers, strongly condemned the attack.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation reaffirmed the UAE’s rejection of violence aimed at destabilising security and stability, and its solidarity with Egypt in confronting terrorists.
Egyptian soldiers and police, often backed by fighter jets, helicopter gunships and tanks, have been fighting militants in northern Sinai for years.
In 2018, the government launched a major offensive against the militants, dislodging them from most of their strongholds in northern Sinai, a rugged and thinly populated region of mountains and desert.
Saturday’s attack came two weeks after Mr El Sisi said a total of 3,277 service members from the army and police had been killed fighting militants since 2013. More than 12,000 have been injured, he said.
“We have settled the issue there but the cost was very high,” Mr El Sisi said on April 27. ”We will only declare the end of terrorism in Sinai when we have cleared all the roadside bombs there.”
The number of attacks blamed on militants surged after the 2013 removal of president Mohammed Morsi, a member of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, amid a popular uprising against his divisive one-year rule. Their frequency was reduced dramatically after the 2018 offensive.
Isolated acts of violence has continued, including the kidnapping and killing of civilians suspected of working for the military or members of tribes that have openly sided with the government.
There have also been attacks on small, remote police and army outposts.