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The New Arab

Egypt hands life sentences to Islamic State militants

The defendants were convicted for plotting to bomb an alcohol store [Getty]

Date of publication: 31 March, 2019

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An Egyptian court handed down life sentences to 18 people for joining the Islamic State (IS) and conspiring to bomb a church.

An Egyptian court handed down life sentences to 18 people on Saturday for joining the Islamic State (IS) group and conspiring to bomb a church, as well as long-term sentences for others involved with the group.

The prosecution accused the defendants, some of whom allegedly had military training in Libya and Syria, of planning suicide attacks using bombs in July 2017 which targeted a church in the city of Alexandria, according to media reports.

In the same year, the defendants were convicted for plotting to bomb an aclohol store located in the town of Damietta, 200 kilometres northeast of Cairo.

In April 2017, IS claimed responsibility for two bomb blasts that struck Coptic churches, killing at least 47 people as they were celebrating Palm Sunday.

Following the bloodshed, Egypt declared a state of emergency to the dismay of critics who were worried that it could be used as an excuse by the regime to crackdown on political opponents and expand extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.

In addition to life sentences, the court also sentenced eight individuals to 15-year imprisonment and gave four others 10-year jail sentences.

The defendants, totalling 30, were all convicted for joining a "terrorist group" and planning terror acts, in addition to possession of explosives, firearms and ammunition, according to media reports.

Egypt has seen armed attacks increasing in recent years. According to official reports, 600 suspected militants and 40 soldiers have been killed by the army in February 2018.

Militant groups also target projects and worksites in Sinai, a renowned region for hosting works and projects belonging to Egyptian Air Force.

Earlier this week, militants suspected to be members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Sinai Province (ISIL-SP), opened fire on workers in mid-Sinai, killing no less than ten people.

Egypt's army launched a major operation against the jihadists in early 2018, originally scheduled to run three months, after an attack in North Sinai killed more than 300 people at a mosque.

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