Egypt upholds death sentence for 14 militants

CAIRO Mon Feb 10, 2014 12:24pm EST

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CAIRO (Reuters) - The Egyptian presidency upheld the death penalty for 14 people convicted of attacking police in North Sinai in 2011, signaling the army-backed authorities' determination to press a campaign against Islamist militants.

The condemned men, all from the Tawheed wal Jihad ("Monotheism and Holy War") group, were sentenced in 2012 to hang for killing three police officers, an army officer and a civilian in attacks on a police station and a bank in the town of el-Arish in 2011.

Deposed president Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood did not sign off on the implementation of the sentences during his one year in office, which ended when the army deposed him after mass protests against his rule.

Mursi's overthrow has triggered a wave of attacks on the security forces in North Sinai and further west in the towns of cities of the Nile Valley and Delta. The state has declared that it is in a war on terrorism.

Militant groups flourished in North Sinai in 2011, expanding into a security vacuum left by the collapse of state authority after the downfall of president Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

The army is waging a campaign there to reassert state authority. The military has said 16 hardline Islamists were killed in North Sinai air strikes last Friday.

The presidency also upheld a death sentence on a militant convicted of a 2011 attack, and jail terms for eight others convicted of attacks in Cairo dating back to 2005.

(Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Michael Georgy and Robin Pomeroy)

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