Egypt upholds death sentences for 7 over beheadings, ISIS links

(File, AFP)
(File, AFP)

Cairo - An Egyptian court has upheld death sentences for seven people over the beheadings in Libya of 21 Christians, all but one from Egypt, and for belonging to the Islamic State group, a judicial official said Sunday.

In February 2015, Libya posted a video on the internet of the beheadings on a Libyan beach, sparking international condemnation and Egyptian air strikes against jihadist targets in the neighbouring country.

Saturday's court ruling came a day after an attack on a mosque in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula that killed more than 300 people and for which IS is the main suspect.

The court also sentenced 10 people to life in prison - 25 years in Egypt - and three others to 15 years in prison, the official said.

The ruling can still be appealed.

The court first condemned the seven to death in September. Three were condemned in absentia, and an unspecified number of those sentenced were accused of having taken part in the beheadings.

Prosecutors accused the seven suspects of belonging to an IS cell in Marsa Matruh, northwest Egypt, and of planning attacks after having received military training at jihadist camps in Libya and Syria.

In May, Egypt again struck what it said were jihadist targets in Libya after ISIS claimed a massacre of Coptic Christians on their way to a monastery south of Cairo.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said military reverses for ISIS in war-torn Syria were driving its fighters to try to relocate to Libya and the Sinai Peninsula of eastern Egypt.

Egypt has been battling an insurgency by an ISIS affiliate based in North Sinai since the military's ouster in 2013 of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

Hundreds of members of Egypt's security forces have been killed, while more than 100 Copts have died in church bombings since December.

Twenty-seven children were among 305 people killed in Friday's assault on the mosque in North Sinai, according to the state prosecution.

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