Egypt court jails 65 suspected ISIS extremists

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An Egyptian court on Thursday sentenced 65 suspected ISIS extremist group members 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 (ISIS 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 2014, the government and security forces have cracked down hard on extremists.

The Egyptian branch of ISIS 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 extremists and around 30 Egyptian soldiers have been killed since the offensive began, the army said in October.

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

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

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