Egypt hangs six convicted militants

Updated 18 May 2015

Egypt hangs six convicted militants

CAIRO: Egyptian authorities on Sunday hanged six men convicted of killing soldiers, police said, ignoring appeals to spare them amid allegations two of them had been in custody at the time of their alleged crimes.
A military court upheld the death sentences last March, following a trial in which the six were convicted of carrying out the attacks in the months after the army’s overthrow of Islamist president Muhammad Mursi in July 2013.
Prosecutors said they were members of the Sinai Peninsular-based Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis jihadist group, which late last year pledged allegiance to the Islamic State organization.
The sentence was carried out by hanging in a Cairo jail, according to officials.
Some of the men had been arrested when police and soldiers raided their safe house north of Cairo in March 2014.
Two army explosive experts and six militants were killed in an ensuing gunfight, adding to the list of charges against the six men.
But human rights groups had appealed for a stay of execution, saying two of the defendants had been in custody at the time.
Amnesty International said the men underwent a “grossly unfair” trial and that the only witness during the hearings was a secret police officer.
Their execution came a day after a court sentenced Mursi and more than 100 others to death for their alleged role in prison breaks and attacks on police during the 2011 uprising against former strongman Hosni Mubarak.
Hundreds of Islamists have been sentenced to death in mass trials since Mursi’s overthrow, but only seven, including the six on Saturday, have been executed.
Another Islamist, accused of involvement in the murder of anti-Mursi protesters after his ouster, was hanged in March.
The six men hanged on Sunday had been accused of taking part in two attacks on the army in early 2014, one which killed six soldiers at a Cairo checkpoint and the other three soldiers in a bus.
The attacks were claimed by Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, which has killed dozens of soldiers and policemen in the Sinai Peninsula.
The raid in March 2014 on the group’s safe house north of Cairo all but ended their presence in the Nile Valley, after a spate of attacks.
The group had assassinated a senior secret police officer, tried to kill the interior minister using a car bomb, and blew up two police headquarters, killing at least 20 officers.
Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis later pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in November 2014.
It has continued to carry out attacks in Sinai, most recently killing four soldiers and three civilians on May 13 in bomb attacks.

Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

Updated 54 min 1 sec ago

Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

  • Syria records 20 new cases of coronavirus in largest single-day increase

BEIRUT/DAMASCUS: Traffic returned to a major highway in northeastern Syria for the first time in seven months on Monday, following Russian mediation to reopen parts of the road captured last year by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Syrian Kurdish media and a Syrian Kurdish official said several vehicles accompanied by Russian troops began driving in the morning between the northern towns of Ein Issa and Tal Tamr. 

The two towns are controlled by regime forces and Syrian Kurdish fighters while the area between them is mostly held by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters captured parts of the highway known as M4 in October, when Ankara invaded northeastern Syria to drive away Syrian Kurdish fighters. The M4 links Syria’s coastal region all the way east to the Iraqi border.

Four convoys will drive on the M4 every day with two leaving from Tal Tamr and two from Ein Issa, according to the Kurdish ANHA news agency. The report said a convoy will leave from each town at 8 a.m., and another set of convoys will do the same, three hours later.

The ANHA agency added that the opening of the highway will shorten the trip between the two towns as people previously had to take roundabout, side roads.

“This is the first time the road has been opened” since October, said Mervan Qamishlo, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

Russia, a main power broker with Turkey in Syria, mediated the deal to reopen the highway, he said. Russia and Turkey back rival groups in Syria’s nine-year conflict.

Coronavirus cases

Syria reported 20 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, the largest single-day increase to date.

The war-torn country has recorded 106 infections and four deaths so far, and new cases have increased in recent days with the return of Syrians from abroad.

Syria has kept an overnight curfew in place but has begun to open some of its economy after a lockdown. Doctors and relief groups worry that medical infrastructure ravaged by years of conflict would make a more serious outbreak deadly and difficult to fend off.