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25 Egyptian police killed in Sinai

Suspected militants have ambushed two minibuses carrying off-duty policemen in Egypt's northern Sinai Peninsula, killing 25 of them execution-style and wounding two, security officials said.

The killings, which took place near the border town of Rafah, compound Egypt's woes a day after police fired tear gas to free a prison guard from rioting detainees, killing at least 36.

The deaths of the 36 detainees and the 25 policemen take to nearly 1,000 the number of people killed in Egypt since Wednesday's simultaneous assaults on two sit-in protest camps by supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi.

In the attack in Sinai, the militants forced the two vehicles to stop, ordered the policemen out and forced them to lie on the ground before they shot them, the officials said. The policemen were in civilian clothes, the officials added.

The deaths on Sunday of the prisoners, who were captured during clashes in the past couple of days around Cairo's central Ramses Square, came as military chief General Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi vowed that the military would stand firm in the face of the rising violence but also called for the inclusion of Islamists in the post-Morsi political process.

There was initial confusion over how the Sinai ambush had happened, and the officials at first said the policemen were killed when the militants fired rocket-propelled grenades at the two minibuses carrying the men. Such confusion over details in the immediate aftermath of attacks is common. Egyptian state television also reported that the men were killed execution-style.

Sinai, a strategic region bordering the Gaza Strip and Israel, has been witnessing almost daily attacks since Mr Morsi was ousted in a military coup on July 3. Military and security forces have been engaged in a long-running battle against militants in the northern half of the peninsula. Militants and tribesmen have used the area for smuggling and other criminal activity for years and have on occasion fired rockets into Israel and staged cross-border attacks.

The detainees killed on Sunday were in a prison truck convoy of some 600 prisoners heading to Abu Zaabal prison in northern Egypt, security officials told the Associated Press. Detainees in one of the trucks rioted and managed to capture a police officer inside, the officials said.

Security forces fired tear gas into the truck in hopes of freeing the badly beaten officer, the officials said. The officials said those killed died from suffocating from the gas.

Meanwhile Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak could be freed from custody this week, judicial officials said. A court ordered his release in a corruption case that alleged he and his two sons embezzled funds for presidential palaces. He is on retrial for the protesters' killing but cannot be held in custody any more because of a two-year limit pending a final verdict.


From Belfast Telegraph