Egypt refers 555 ISIS Sinai suspects to trial

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Egypt's public prosecutor has referred to military trial 555 people accused of belonging to a branch of the ISIS group in the Sinai Peninsula, a judicial official said Tuesday.

The 555 were alleged to have formed 43 cells as part of Wilayat Sinai, "whose elements carried out 63 terrorist operations", the official said, referring to the group that pledged allegiance to ISIS.

They were accused of murder and the attempted killing of officers and personnel of the armed forces and police in North Sinai province.

Out of the 555, 216 would appear in court, while 339 would be tried in absentia, according to the official.

In the latest verdict, a military court sentenced 36 people to death in April on accusations they were involved in attacks against churches, requesting the opinion of Egypt's grand mufti, as required by law.

The opinion of Egypt's highest religious authority is solicited whenever a death sentence is passed, but it is not legally binding.

The attacks, claimed by ISIS, killed at least 80 people.

Egypt has been hit by significant militant attacks in recent years, especially after Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi was toppled following mass protests against his rule.

On February 9, the military launched an operation against ISIS's affiliate in North Sinai.

It has resulted in the deaths of more than 200 militants and at least 33 government troops.

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