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Egyptian President el-Sissi travels to embattled northern Sinai Peninsula to inspect troops

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CAIRO — Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi donned battle dress for the first time in over a year to inspect troops in the troubled northern part of the Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, after Islamic State-linked militants struck a deadly blow against the military this week in a coordinated assault.

Wearing his old uniform, which he said he had hung up for good when he ran for president, the general-turned politician met members of the army and police, an official from his office said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information otherwise.

The army said 17 soldiers and over 100 militants were killed in Wednesday's brazen attack in Sinai, although before the release of its official statement, several senior security officials from multiple branches of Egypt's forces in the area had said that scores more troops also died in the fighting.

The attack, which lasted a whole day and was unprecedented in its size and coordination, hit a string of army checkpoints and involved multiple suicide bombings and the siege of a main police station with heavy weapons.

It came after a week of bloodletting that saw Egypt's prosecutor general assassinated outside his Cairo home by a massive car bomb, and a special forces raid on an apartment that killed nine members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood responded by calling for a "rebellion," raising the prospect of a further uptick in violence.

In Sinai's Rafah, a city on the border with the Gaza Strip, a roadside bomb exploded near a civilian home Saturday, killing a child and wounding four others, security officials said. They too spoke anonymously because regulations did not permit them to release the information otherwise.

PHOTO: In this picture provided by the office of the Egyptian Presidency, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi,  left, talks to members of the Egyptian armed forces at a command center in Northern Sinai, Egypt, Saturday, July 4, 2015.  Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has travelled to the troubled northern part of the Sinai Peninsula to inspect troops, after Islamic State-linked militants struck a deadly blow against the military this week in a coordinated assault. (Egyptian Presidency /Mohammed Abdel-Muati via AP)
In this picture provided by the office of the Egyptian Presidency, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, left, talks to members of the Egyptian armed forces at a command center in Northern Sinai, Egypt, Saturday, July 4, 2015. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has travelled to the troubled northern part of the Sinai Peninsula to inspect troops, after Islamic State-linked militants struck a deadly blow against the military this week in a coordinated assault. (Egyptian Presidency /Mohammed Abdel-Muati via AP)

Also Saturday, an Islamic State group affiliate that claimed responsibility for the Sinai assault also said it had fired three Grad rockets at Israel a day earlier.

In a statement posted on its Twitter account, the group which calls itself the IS group's Sinai Province said it fired the rockets because Israel was supporting the Egyptian regime. It also claimed Israeli aircraft had joined Egyptian warplanes in bombing its fighters.

Israel's military said the rocket was fired into southern Israel Friday afternoon, hitting an open field but causing no damage or injuries. Egyptian military and security officials in Sinai have denied any rockets were fired from the restive peninsula.

Combat operations continued in the area late Saturday, with the Egyptian army saying Apache attack helicopters fired missiles at groups of extremists, killing 10 of them.

In a statement, el-Sissi's office said he traveled to an army command post in northern Sinai to be briefed by commanders and inspect weapons seized from extremists as well as to pay tribute to the heroes of the army.

"The people's confidence in the armed forces has no limits," he said in a speech, according to the statement.


Associated Press writer Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this report.

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PHOTO: In this picture provided by the office of the Egyptian Presidency, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi addresses members of the Egyptian armed forces in Northern Sinai, Egypt, Saturday, July 4, 2015.  Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has travelled to the troubled northern part of the Sinai Peninsula to inspect troops, after Islamic State-linked militants struck a deadly blow against the military this week in a coordinated assault. (Egyptian Presidency /Mohammed Abdel-Muati via AP)
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