Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Friday that militants in the Sinai Peninsula would soon be defeated as he visited troops three days ahead of the presidential election as he runs for a second term, state news agency MENA reported.
Sisi has said he wanted more candidates to run for office, and the election commission says the vote will be free and fair.
Last November Sisi ordered the armed forces to crush ISIS after an attack on a mosque that killed more than 300 people, in the deadliest such incident in Egypt’s history.
In February, Egypt’s military launched its most publicized operation yet against the militias, who have waged years of attacks on the police and troops.
MENA said Sisi sat and chatted with pilots and troops on Friday during his visit to an air base in North Sinai, a restive desert region where Islamists have been holed up for years.
“Soon we will come here to celebrate victory over the deviants of the age,” MENA quoted him as saying, referring to the militants.
Egypt’s military says its current operation against the militants in Sinai has featured unprecedented coordination between the army, navy and air force. However, analysts and diplomats say they have seen little evidence of new tactics that would clear North Sinai of the militants.
Sisi’s critics say his presidency has brought a harsh crackdown on dissent, but supporters say such measures are needed to stabilise Egypt, which was rocked by years of unrest.
Sisi is virtually guaranteed next week to win a second four-year term, with voters hoping he can improve Egypt’s struggling economy.
The International Monetary Fund, which agreed a $12 billion loan with Egypt in late 2016, has praised the government’s austerity measures and a devaluation of the pound currency, saying they have improved some economic indicators, though many Egyptians still feel worse off.