Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi will cut short his visit to Ethiopia and return to Egypt on Friday, following a series of militant attacks in North Sinai on Thursday night that left at least 30 people dead.
El-Sisi was in Addis Ababa to attend the 24th African Union summit meeting. He will return to Cairo after attending the opening session, state-run news agency MENA reported.
A series of deadly militant attacks involving mortar attacks and car bombs targeted several military and police sites in North Sinai on Thursday. Medical and security sources estimated the dead at 30, including several civilians.
Exact figures for casualties have yet to be announced by officials. The health ministry’s North Sinai undersecretary, Tariq Khater, told Ahram Online on Friday morning that he is not authorised to reveal the figures due to the military nature of the incidents.
Reuters quoted security sources as saying that military planes had left Sinai on Friday morning carrying thirty body bags. The sources also reportedly said that five men were critically injured and that the death toll was expected to rise.
According to Reuters, medical sources said that two children had been killed in Thursday’s violence.
Following the attack, the armed forces said in a statement that the violence came in response to the "successful" security campaign against militants in the restive province, without elaborating further on the number killed.
Attacks by militant groups based in North Sinai have spiked since the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, with security forces particularly targeted. The armed forces have responded by waging a military campaign aimed at eradicating militants from Sinai.
Sinai-based militant group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for Thursday's attacks on an affiliated Twitter account.
The group, which has said it is behind a number of attacks in the peninsula, recently pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State (IS), the militant group which controls large swathes in Iraq and Syria.
A security source told Al-Ahram’s Arabic website that the army have responded to Thursday’s attacks by starting wide military offensives throughout North Sinai, targeting terrorist hideouts using Apache helicopters and un-manned planes.
The deadly attacks came only days after Egypt had marked the fourth anniversary of the 25 January Revolution which ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak. The anniversary had been marked by increased tensions nationwide; a series of improvised bombs went off across the country over the last week, mainly targeting railroad tracks and electricity pylons, while 23 people died in violent clashes with police on the day of the anniversary.
The US has condemned Thursday’s violence. "The United States remains steadfast in its support of the Egyptian government’s efforts to combat the threat of terrorism in Egypt," an official statement read.