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Four held in Egypt over Italian student's brutal murder

Italy has cast doubt on Egyptian government's suggestion that criminals dressed up as police were responsible for Giulio Regeni's death
Relatives of student who was tortured to death say they are 'injured and bitter' about the Egyptian response (AFP)

Egyptian prosecutors on Saturday ordered the detention of four people in relation to the murder of Italian student Giulio Regeni, a prosecution official said.

Two of the group are the wife and a sister of a gang leader whom police have linked to the brutal murder of Regeni, whose mutilated body was found more than a week after his disappearance in Cairo on 25 January, the fifth anniversary of the uprising that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak.

They had been arrested in the sister's apartment, where police discovered a bag with Regeni's passport and wallet. 

The other two are the brother-in-law and brother of the alleged gang leader, who was killed in a shoot out with police along with three other alleged criminals.

Egypt’s state-owned daily, al-Ahram, on Saturday published a photograph of Regeni’s possessions, including his passport, with its details clearly visible, a bank card and three pairs of sunglasses.

Italy has cast doubt on the suggestion that the gang members, who allegedly posed as police to extort foreigners and Egyptians, were behind Regeni's murder.

"Italy insists: we want the truth," wrote Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni on his Twitter account, while prosecutors in Rome rejected the latest conclusions of the Egyptian probe.

Italian media and Western diplomatic sources in Cairo have voiced suspicions that Egyptian security services kidnapped and tortured to death the 28-year-old Cambridge University graduate student.

Rome prosecutor Giuseppe Pignatone said in a statement that "details communicated so far are not satisfactory to shed light on the death of Giulio Regeni. Investigations must therefore continue."

According to Italian government sources, Premier Matteo Renzi has promised the parents of the young student that Rome will continue to put pressure on Egypt – usually a key diplomatic and business partner - to establish the full truth behind his death.

Quoted by the Italian press, Regeni's parents said they were "injured and bitter" at the Egyptian authorities' latest attempt to explain their son's death.  

Regeni had been researching labour movements in Egypt, a sensitive topic, and had written articles critical of the government under a pen name. 

In a statement late Friday, the Egyptian interior ministry said it was investigating the gang's links to Regeni's murder.

"The investigation apparatus is continuing, in coordination with the Italian security team, in its efforts to examine the gang's links, and the circumstances of the crimes and the areas in which they occurred," the ministry said.