Egypt upholds death sentences for Sinai Islamist attacks

Islamist militants react as they listen to the court verdicts in Ismailia. Photo: 24 September 2012 Islamist militants denounced the verdicts in the courtroom

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An Egyptian court has upheld death sentences for 14 Islamist militants over attacks on the army and police in the Sinai Peninsula last year.

The court in Ismailia sentenced another four militants to life imprisonment. All the men are members of the Tawhid wa al-Jihad group.

Nine of the 14 death sentences were given in absentia.

At least one policeman, a soldier and a civilian were killed in the attacks in al-Arish last summer.

A lower court had handed down the sentences in mid-August and the verdicts were confirmed on Monday by the supreme state security court.

Some defendants met the rulings with shouts of "God is great!", while others blamed the country's new President Mohammed Mursi.

File pic of an Egyptian soldier There has been an Egyptian security crackdown in Sinai since early August

"Mursi is an infidel and those who follow him are infidels," one defendant said, according to Reuters.

Another six men were acquitted in the same case. One other died in prison.

The Sinai Peninsula has seen a spate of attacks by suspected Islamists since President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February 2011.

Residents complain of decades of neglect by governments in Cairo, leading to an increase in support for extremist Islamist groups.

In August, 16 Egyptian soldiers were killed in what was the deadliest attack so far, prompting a massive security crackdown in the area.

Tawhid wa al-Jihad has previously been accused of staging attacks in Egypt's Red Sea resorts in 2004-06, in which dozens of people died.

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