Egypt court jails 65 suspected Daesh militants

Coptic Christian women mourn victims as the coffins are carried out of the Prince Tadros church in Egypt’s southern Minya province last week. — AFP

CAIRO — An Egyptian court on Thursday sentenced 65 suspected Daesh (the so-called IS) militants to between five years and life in prison for setting up a “terrorist cell”, a court official said.

The alleged cell had members in various parts of impoverished upper Egypt and was led by an “emir” Mostafa Ahmed Abdelaal.

The militants, charged in 2017, had “set up a terrorist cell in Upper Egypt which declared allegiance to (Daesh leader) Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi”, the court official said.

The court sentenced 18 of the defendants to life terms (25 years) and another 41 to 15-year prison terms.

It also handed six minors five years each in jail and acquitted two suspects.

The sentences can be appealed.

Since Egypt’s military toppled the government led by the Brotherhood in 2014, the security forces have cracked down hard on secular opposition and extremism.

The Egyptian branch of Daesh has led an insurgency in North Sinai and carried out attacks across the country.

Egypt’s army launched a major offensive in February dubbed “Sinai 2018” to dislodge the insurgents from the peninsula.

More than 450 suspected militants and around 30 Egyptian soldiers have been killed since the offensive began, the army said in October.

Militant attacks in recent years have killed hundreds of police, soldiers and civilians.

Daesh claimed responsibility for an attack last week against Egyptian Christians in Minya province, which killed six Copts and one Anglican.

Egyptian courts have convicted many suspected militants in mass trials which have been criticized by human rights groups.

An Egyptian military court on Wednesday sentenced eight Daesh members to death for a deadly attack against the army in 2016, officials said. — AFP