US defense secretary meets with Egyptian officials in Cairo

US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis met on Saturday with Egyptian officials to discuss cooperation between the two countries, the first stop on a trip that will also take him to Jordan, Pakistan and Kuwait.
Mattis’ visit came just over a week after the worst-ever Islamic militant attack in Egypt’s modern history took place in the troubled northern Sinai where over two dozen extremists descended on a mosque and killed more than 300 worshippers.
The attackers first opened fire and tossed hand grenades into the mosque during on Friday prayers, then gunned down anyone who tried to escape.
Though no group claimed responsibility, survivors have said the militants carried the black banner of the ISIS, pointing to the Sinai-based Egyptian affiliate of the Sunni extremist group. On Wednesday, the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper said the death toll from the attack had risen to 311.
President Donald Trump called Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi shortly after the attack and said in a tweet that “the world cannot tolerate terrorism; we must defeat them militarily and discredit the extremist ideology.”
According to a Department of Defense statement, Mattis’ visit was part of a five-day trip “to re-affirm the enduring US commitment to partnership in the Middle East, West Africa and South Asia.” Mattis was scheduled to meet with al-Sisi and Defense Minister Sedki Sobhi.
Mattis later departed for Jordan, where he was scheduled to attend a meeting on countering violent extremism in West Africa, hosted by Jordan’s King Abdallah II. On Monday, Mattis will be visiting Pakistan where plans to meet with Prime Minister Abassi before concluding his trip with a visit to Kuwait the following day.
Egypt is among the top recipients of US military assistance, receiving nearly $1.3bn annually in addition to $250m in economic aid.

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