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Egypt court upholds death sentences for 14 Islamists

An Egyptian criminal court on Monday upheld death sentences for 14 Islamists convicted of murdering several people in Sinai Peninsula attacks last year. In particular, the Ismailia court ordered the convicts, all members of the monotheist and militant group Tawheed wal Jihad [advocacy website], to be hanged [Reuters report] for killing [JURIST report] three police officers, one army officer, and one civilian during June and July attacks on a police station and a bank in Arish, Egypt. Eight of the group's members were tried in absentia, while four additional members were sentenced to life imprisonment. Tawheed wal Jihad is a Salafist [PBS backgrounder] organization and is one of several banned groups that the Egyptian government is targeting in a security crackdown. The group was also accused of bombing tourist resorts in South Sinai in 2004 and 2005, attacks that left 34 people dead.

Salafists, who adhere to an ideology that seeks to restore Islam to its original meanings and teachings, have played a significant role in recent conflicts in the Middle East. Earlier in August there was speculation [BBC report] that Salafist cleric Mohammed Yursi Ibrahim would be appointed to the cabinet of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], possibly increasing tensions between Muslims and Coptic Christians in Egypt. In June an Israeli missile strike killed two Salafist militants in the Gaza Strip [BBC report].

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