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Egypt orders military trial for 'IS' suspects

May 21, 2017

Egypt's top prosecutor has accused the suspects of involvement in attacks on churches and military targets. The militant group has increasingly targeted Christians after launching an armed insurgency in northern Sinai.

Egypt has increased security at churches across the country, including the Mar Girgis church in Tanta, which was targeted in April's bombings
Image: picture alliance/Photoshot/A. Gomaa

Egyptian authorities referred 48 suspected members of the "Islamic State" militant group to military trial for involvement in three deadly church bombings, Egypt's chief prosecutor Nabil Sadeq said in a statement on Sunday.

At least 75 people have been killed in "Islamic State"-claimed attacks on Coptic churches in December and April, including two in Tanta and Alexandria on Palm Sunday. Sadeq said that 31 of the suspected militants are in custody, but 17 remain at large.

According to the prosecutor, the suspects allegedly set up "Islamic State" cells in Cairo and the southern province of Qena. The suspected militants allegedly received training in Syria and Libya.

In the statement, Sadeq also accused the suspects of participating in a separate attack on a checkpoint in Egypt's Western Desert, which left eight law enforcement agents dead.

Egypt's armed forces have struggled to quash an armed insurgency in northern Sinai since President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi led a military coup against the country's first democratically-elected leader, Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, in 2013.

Terrorism in Egypt

With the rise of the "Islamic State" in 2014, the militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis pledged allegiance to the militant group and rebranded as the Sinai Province, vowing to enact a brutal campaign to recreate a caliphate in Egypt.

Although the Sinai Province initially launched attacks against military and state security targets in northern Sinai, it claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian airliner in 2015 that killed 224 people on board, many of them Russians.

Since then, the group has increasingly targeted Egypt's Coptic Christian community in the country's urban centers. In December, the "Islamic State" claimed responsibility for a church attack that left 29 people dead in central Cairo.

The Coptic community comprises roughly 10 percent of Egypt's population of about 90 million. Although pockets of sectarian violence have emerged in the wake of Egypt's 2011 revolution, the Coptic community maintains relatively amicable relations with the country's Muslim majority.

ls/jlw (Reuters, AFP, AP)