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UPDATE 1-Top militant suspect transferred to Egypt from eastern Libya -state TV

(Adds details on Ashmawy and on Egyptian television footage, adds BENGHAZI to dateline)

CAIRO/BENGHAZI, May 29 (Reuters) - Top Egyptian militant suspect Hisham al-Ashmawy was transferred to Egypt from eastern Libya in a military aircraft, Egyptian state television said on Wednesday.

Ashmawy, a former Egyptian special forces officer, was apprehended in the Libyan city of Derna late last year and has been long sought by Cairo on charges of orchestrating a deadly desert ambush on police and other high-profile attacks.

At least two private Egyptian television channels showed live footage of the military aircraft landing in Cairo airport and a presenter climbed inside to film a blindfolded and ear-muffed Ashmawy.

“You’re in Egypt, Hisham,” the anchor said as an intelligence officer removed the ear-muffs. “Welcome back.”

Another unidentified detainee could also be seen handcuffed, blindfolded and ear-muffed. Two intelligence sources told Reuters the man was Safwat Zeidan, Ashmawy’s personal guard.

Ashmawy was then filmed limping towards a black vehicle parked on the tarmac while flanked by two security officers.

The transfer came following a visit by Egyptian Intelligence Chief Abbas Kamel to Benghazi where he met with Libyan eastern commander Khalifa Haftar.

Egyptian authorities say Ashmawy heads the Ansar al-Islam network, which claimed responsibility for an ambush against police in Egypt’s Western Desert in 2017. Egyptian officials also accuse the network, which they link to al-Qaeda, of an assassination attempt on a former interior minister in 2013.

Ashmawy has been convicted in absentia to death in Egypt for attacks in Egypt, including a 2014 raid in which 22 Egyptian military border guards were killed near the frontier with Libya.

Egypt, along the United Arab Emirates, is a supporter of Haftar’s Libya National Army (LNA), which has been for two months battling to take the capital Tripoli, held by the internationally recognized government.

The LNA has not been able to breach defences in southern Tripoli suburbs. The conflict is part of chaos gripping Libya since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. (Reporting by Mohamed El-Sherif, Hesham Hajali and Ahmed Mohamed Hassan in Cairo, and by Ayman Warfalli in Benghazi Writing by Nadine Awadalla Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Matthew Lewis)

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