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Sisi assassination plots: Egypt charges hundreds

Some of those who planned assassination were dismissed police officers who adhere to militant ideology, government says
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (AFP/file photo)

Egypt will try 292 militant suspects over plots to assassinate President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the Saudi crown prince and attacks in the Sinai Peninsula, a prosecution official said on Sunday.

The suspects, including 151 currently in custody, were referred to a military court for alleged membership of the "Sinai State", the local affiliate of the Islamic State (IS) group, which is leading an insurrection in the Sinai.

The suspects were questioned about the accusations against them and 66 confessed during an investigation that lasted more than a year, the official said.

The suspects were involved in 17 operations, including two plots to kill Sisi, one while he was on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia and one in Cairo, the official said.

The official gave no further details, but said some of those who planned the assassination attempts were dismissed police officers who adhere to a militant ideology.

Authorities said the six former officers involved in the plots were members of a "bearded police officers" group formed in 2012, whose members said they would grow their beards in accordance with their interpretation of Islamic doctrine, the MENA news agency reported.

At the time, the interior ministry blocked this move, saying it violated police and military codes, MENA said. The group members were then sent to the ministry's reserve forces. 

Authorities said these former security officials planned to use their expertise to target the president’s convoy as it moved through Cairo.   

The suspects allegedly also planned to assassinate Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in the Gulf kingdom and five Egyptian judges.

No further details about the plots were given.

The prosecution also accuses the suspects of attacking army and police checkpoints and bases in the Sinai, and of responsibility for a February 2014 attack on a bus carrying South Korean tourists in the south Sinai tourist resort of Taba that killed three holidaymakers.

The army has been battling a militant insurgency in northern Sinai that escalated after the military overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

Egypt's government says hundreds of police and soldiers have died in the attacks, which have also hit Cairo and the Nile Delta.

Most of the attacks have been claimed by the Egyptian IS affiliate, which also said it bombed a Russian plane over Sinai in October 2015, killing all 224 people on board, most of them Russian tourists.