An Egyptian court has sentenced to death 14 people it described as “Islamist militants” over a deadly attack on a police station in north Sinai last year, a court official said.
Tuesday’s ruling may add to the tension in the volatile region bordering Israel, where fighting between security forces and “militants” has intensified since 16 border guards were killed in an attack blamed on Islamist groups earlier this month.
The condemned men were convicted for attacking a police station in north Sinai’s main town of El Arish in July 2011, killing an army officer, five policemen and a civilian, the court said.
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Footage from inside the court showed bearded defendants, wearing the white overalls issued to detainees, standing or sitting in a metal cage. One was brought into court in a wheelchair. Six of the condemned men were present in court, others convicted in absentia.
They were all accused of being members of Al-Tawhid Wal Jihad, one of the banned groups being targeted in a security crackdown on “militants” in the desert peninsula.
The same court, in the city of Ismailia, on the west bank of the Suez Canal, will rule next month on another 11 defendants, also accused of being part of the group which was blamed for bombing tourist resorts in Sinai in 2004 and 2005.
Thirteen of the 25 defendants in the two cases were tried in absentia, as they are not in Egyptian custody.
Three bombings, targeting Israeli tourists at an Egyptian Red Sea hotel, killed 34 people in October 2004. More than 80 people were killed and 200 injured when suspected car bombs rocked the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in July 2005.
The group kept a low profile after its founders were killed by police following those bombings, but had a resurgence after a popular uprising overthrew president Hosni Mubarak 18 months ago and members of the group fled prison and began to regroup, according to security experts and residents in Sinai.