US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis met 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 Friday prayers, then gunned down anyone who tried to escape. 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 el-Sissi 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 Defence 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 el-Sissi and Defence 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.
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