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Four Egyptian policemen killed in north Sinai attack

Gunmen killed officers between the towns of Rafah and El-Arish as they returned to their posts after the weekend in the restive Sinai Peninsula
Militants in the Sinai Peninsula have stepped up attacks on the police and army over the past year (AFP)

Four Egyptian policemen were killed in the restive northern Sinai on Saturday, according to a security source who blamed the attack on “Takfiri” militants.

The security source told AFP the men were killed “on the road between the towns of Rafah and El-Arish in north Sinai when Takfiri elements forced the pick-up they were driving to stop, made the four policemen get out and opened fire on them”.

The policemen had been returning to their posts after the weekend, the source said, adding that the attackers fled into the desert.

The term Takfiri is regularly used to describe what are perceived as violent groups who use religious rhetoric to justify their actions, often as a tool to legitimise the killing of Muslims the militants deem not to be properly observing a narrow and literalist interpretation of Islam.

Armed groups in the Sinai Peninsula have stepped up attacks on troops and police over the past year, capitalising on the political turmoil that has ensued since a military-backed coup removed the country’s first elected president Mohammed Morsi from power last July.

Violence has increased significantly across Egypt in recent months, with a string of attacks hitting the capital Cairo over the past week. Two makeshift bombs exploded on Saturday in the 6 October district in Giza, killing a teenage girl and injuring her parents.

It emerged late on Saturday that the mother of the teenage girl had died of her injuries in the blast at the construction site of a telecommunications building. The bomb was detonated by a mobile phone signal, according to police who spoke to AFP.

Egypt to try nearly 100 Morsi supporters

As well as fighting a worrisome insurgency Egyptian authorities are continuing to pursue a crackdown against supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, which the government labelled a terrorist organisation in December last year. Since the ousting of Morsi more than 1,400 people have been killed as police show little toleration for dissent, while over 41,000 have been jailed for political reasons, according to Egyptian monitoring group Wikithawra.

On Saturday Egypt’s prosecution service announced that nearly 100 supporters of deposed president Morsi will stand trial accused of murder and attacks on a university building, in two separate cases.

76 students from Egypt’s prestigious al-Azhar university were referred to trial for torching the building of the university’s faculty of commerce, the prosecutor general’s office said, adding the defendants included 14 women and a Turkish national.

Student supporters of Morsi have staged regular protests on university campuses in support of him, as the police crackdown has weakened their ability to hold large street protests.

Five of the students are also charged with the bombing of a Cairo traffic checkpoint in April that killed a police officer, while in the port city of Alexandria 17 Muslim Brotherhood members have been referred for trial accused of murdering seven people and attempting to kill another 26, the prosecutor general’s office said.

The murders took place on 15 August in Alexandria’s Sidi Bishr district, a day after police broke up two protest camps of Morsi supporters in Cairo killing over a thousand demonstrators.