U.S. defense secretary looks to rebuild trust in Egypt visit

President Donald Trump hailed the return of Aya Hijazi, an Egyptian-American aid worker, in the Oval Office on Friday, telling the American charity worker she showed "great strength" in her ordeal.

Aya Hijazi, a USA citizen, her Egyptian husband Mohamed Hassanein and four other humanitarian workers were freed after weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiation by the Trump administration.

She was flown to the US after being acquitted by a Cairo court of human trafficking charges stemming from her work with street children.

Pressed on how Trump managed to gain her release when President Barack Obama had not, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said he would leave it to others "to look at the different strategies to see why the president was successful" and Obama was not. She and her husband had established a foundation to aid street children in 2013, but were arrested along with several others in 2014 during a government crackdown.

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) welcomes US Defense Secretary James Mattis at the Ittihadiya presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, April 20, 2017.

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Aya Hijazi and her husband, Mohamed Hassanein, talk inside a holding cell in Cairo as they faced trial on charges of human trafficking.

She was released from jail on Tuesday after almost three years of detention on human trafficking charges.

Aya Hijazi, founder of a charity that promotes a better life for street children, has returned to the United States after three years in an Egyptian jail.

Mattis is the first cabinet level official to visit Egypt from the Trump administration.

Thursday's meetings focused primarily on Egypt's efforts to counter terrorism, primarily the Islamic State, which has infiltrated the country through its porous western border with Libya and has maintained a long-term insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula, said USA officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. She has dual Egyptian and USA citizenship, and lived in Virginia. Former President Barack Obama had distanced the US from its longtime ally after the ousting of the country's first democratically elected leader, Mohamed Morsi, by military strongman Sissi in 2013. Working closely with the Trump administration was very important for my family at this critical time. But the former president had a tough stance on Sisi, including barring him from the White House over Egypt's human rights policies.

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