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Egypt court hands down prison sentences to Morsi supporters

An Egyptian military court handed down heavy prison sentences to supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi. Earlier, the military launched a deadly airstrike on suspected militants in the Sinai Peninsula.

The court sentenced 11 men to 25 years in prison on Tuesday. A further 45 defendants were given sentences of five years.

The accused men were charged with attacking the army, according to the state-run al-Ahram newspaper. The sentence stems from an incident in the canal city of Suez on August 14 and 16. Officials say the defendants attacked troops with birdshot, threw petrol bombs at military buildings and sabotaged government vehicles.

August 14 was the same day Egyptian security forces cleared two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo, killing hundreds of people. The bloodshed sparked nationwide protest, including the rallies in Suez that left 30 people dead.

More than 1,000 people have been killed since the military forcibly removed Morsi from office on July 3.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which backed Morsi, has accused the government of cracking down on their organization. Many of the group's top officials have either been arrested or charged with inciting violence. Morsi himself is currently being held at an undisclosed location.

Violence in Sinai

Earlier on Tuesday, helicopter gunships fired rockets at suspected militants in the northern Sinai Peninsula. At least 8 people were killed and 15 more wounded. The violence is part of the military's ongoing campaign to curb what they say is a rise in Islamic extremism in the relatively lawless region.

The helicopters reportedly targeted several locations along the border between Sinai and the Gaza Strip. The strikes hit hideouts where the militants were meeting in the villages of Touma and Moqatta, along with a car carrying suspects, according to the state news agency MENA.

The Egyptian military has been ramping up efforts to fight militants in Sinai, arresting more suspects and destroying smuggling tunnels to Gaza.

Authorities brace for protests

Troops sealed off roads leading to al-Adawiya Square in Cairo on Tuesday in anticipation of Islamist marches. The square has become a symbol of protest for supporters of Morsi, who are planning to mark two months since his ouster.

The Anti-Coup Alliance, which is led by the Brotherhood, on Monday called for demonstrations under the slogan "The coup is terrorism."

"These demonstrations and other activities" are "aimed at achieving the return of Morsi," it said.

Entrances to the capital city's iconic Tahrir Square were also blocked, MENA reported.

dr/ipj (AFP, dpa, AP, Reuters)