Egypt refers 48 to military trial over church bombings

Egypt refers 48 to military trial over church bombings
Egypt's general prosecution referred on Sunday 48 defendants to military court on charges of involvement in three recent deadly church bombings in Egypt.
2 min read
22 May, 2017
The suspects were involved in three deadly church bombings [NurPhoto]

Egyptian authorities have referred 48 suspected Islamic State group members to military trial over three deadly church bombings, the public prosecutor's office said in a statement on Sunday.

Of the 48 suspects, 31 are in custody and 17 still at large, it said.

The suspects allegedly set up IS cells in Cairo and in the southern province of Qena, the statement said.

It added that they were also suspected of undergoing training at IS military camps in Libya and Syria.

The group is also accused of killing eight policemen and wounding three at a checkpoint in the southwest on 16 January, the statement said.

IS claimed responsibility for the three suicide attacks that targeted the churches in December and April.

An 11 December attack in the heart of Cairo on the Saint Peter and Saint Paul church, adjacent to the headquarters of Coptic Pope Tawadros II, killed 29 people.

On 9 April, 45 people were killed in twin church bombings claimed by IS as Christians gathered to celebrate Palm Sunday in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria.

One day following the April attacks, the interior ministry said that police had killed seven members of a terrorist cell connected to the bombings in a shootout in Upper Egypt's Assiut governorate.

A three-month state of emergency was declared by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on the day of the church attacks.

Since then, the interior ministry has issued regular statements announcing the arrest of IS suspects in connection with the bombings.

IS has threatened to carry out more attacks against Egypt's Christians, who make up around 10 percent of its population of about 90 million.

Copts have endured successive attacks since the ousting of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in a 2013 military coup, led by then defence minister Sisi.

More than 40 churches were targeted nationwide in the two weeks after the deadly dispersal by security forces of two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo on 14 August that year, Human Rights Watch said.

They face exclusion from high-level public posts, including the military, and sectarian violence is common.

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Agencies contributed to this report.