Last updated: 17 May, 2015

Egypt hangs six convicted Islamist militants

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 Mohamed Morsi 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 organisation.

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 Morsi 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 Morsi’s overthrow, but only seven, including the six on Saturday, have been executed.

Another Islamist, accused of involvement in the murder of anti-Morsi 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.