25 police murdered during Egypt unrest

A court ruling Monday raised the possibility of jailed ex-president Hosni Mubarak walking free soon, a move that would fuel the unrest roiling the country after the autocratic leader’s successor was removed in a military coup.

CAIRO, Egypt — A court ruling Monday raised the possibility of jailed ex-president Hosni Mubarak walking free soon, a move that would fuel the unrest roiling the country after the autocratic leader’s successor was removed in a military coup.

Underscoring the growing anger over Mohammed Morsi’s ouster, suspected Islamic militants ambushed two minibuses carrying off-duty policemen in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, forcing the men to lie on the sand and shooting 25 of them dead.

“They were marked in advance by the attackers,” said Ashraf Abdullah, who heads the police branch the victims belonged to. He said the assailants checked the IDs of the men, who were not in uniform, to ensure they were policemen before opening fire.

The brazen daylight attack raised fears that the strategic desert region bordering Israel and the Gaza Strip could be plunged into a full-fledged insurgency.

In a separate development early on Tuesday, police detained the supreme leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group from which Morsi hails, according to security officials and state television. They said Mohammed Badie was captured in an apartment in the eastern Cairo district of Nasr City. That’s where Morsi’s supporters held a six-week sit-in protest that was cleared by security forces last Wednesday.

The private ONTV network showed footage of a man the network said was Badie after his arrest. In the footage, a sombre looking Badie in an off-white Arab robe, or galabiyah, sits motionless on a sofa as a man in civilian clothes and carrying an assault rifle stands nearby.

Badie and his powerful deputy Khairat el-Shater, who is in custody, go on trial later this month for their alleged role in the killing of eight protesters outside the Brotherhood’s Cairo headquarters in June. His arrest is a serious blow to the group at a time when authorities are cracking down on its leaders and mid-ranking officials, detaining scores of them across the country.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The 25 slain police officers were given a funeral with full military honours presided over by Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim, who is in charge of the police, and the army’s chief of staff, Gen. Sedki Sobhi.

In a show of solidarity, the men’s coffins, draped in red, white and black Egyptian flags, were jointly carried by army soldiers and policemen, and interim President Adly Mansour declared a nationwide state of mourning to mark their deaths.

Despite the violence, Cairo, a bustling metropolis of some 18 million people, began to regain a sense of normalcy although the capital remained under a state of emergency and a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

Daytime traffic was back to its normal congested levels and stores were open. Government employees returned to work and the Central Bank ordered banks, which were operating on a reduced 9 a.m.-noon schedule, to remain open for an additional hour on Tuesday.

A handful of protests erupted in various parts of the city, but they were small and led to no violence.

Mubarak, 85, has been in detention since April 2011, two months after he was ousted in a revolution against his rule.

He was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison last year for failing to stop the killing of some 900 protesters in the 18-day uprising. His sentence was overturned on appeal and he is now being retried, along with his security chief and six top police commanders.

Two judicial officials said Mubarak could walk free this week or next after a criminal court on Monday ordered his release in a corruption case in which he and his two sons were accused of embezzling funds for the maintenance of presidential palaces. His sons were ordered kept in custody.

Monday’s ruling, along with the fact that Mubarak had previously been ordered released in the killings of the protesters opened the possibility of freedom for the former president, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

There will no longer be any grounds to hold him if a court accepts a petition by his lawyer requesting his release in a third case later this week or next.

Many analysts, however, expressed skepticism, saying the political cost of freeing the former leader, who was widely hated for widespread abuses and repression during his 29 years in power, could keep him in jail.

Leading rights campaigner Nasser Amin and rights lawyer Hoda Nasrallah said they did not expect Mubarak to be released, citing the country’s delicate political and security situation as well as past incidents when authorities brought up new allegations to prevent his release.

Amin complained that Egypt’s penal law, which dates to the 1930s, has no adequate provisions to allow the conviction of perpetrators of crimes like ordering or failing to prevent the killing of protesters. Already, the overwhelming majority of court cases brought against policemen charged with killing protesters have ended in acquittals or suspended sentences.

“His release or detention will be a decision that weighs political and security conditions in the country,” said Nasrallah.

Freeing Mubarak during one of the worst bouts of turmoil since his ouster would be a huge risk for the military-backed government. It could lend credibility to allegations that the mass protests that preceded the July 3 coup that toppled Egypt’s first democratically elected leader were the work of Mubarak-era figures searching for a way to reinstate the former regime.

Last week, the military raided two protest camps of Morsi’s supporters in Cairo, killing hundreds of people and triggering a wave of violence that has left at least 1,000 people dead.

Human Rights Watch, in a report released Monday, accused Egyptian security forces of using excessive force when they moved to clear the larger of the two camps. The New York-based group said the assault amounted to the “most serious incident of mass unlawful killings in modern Egyptian history.”

It called on authorities to reverse a recent decision authorizing the use of deadly force by security forces when they come under attack or when key government facilities are assaulted.

The Sinai Peninsula has long been wracked by violence by al-Qaida-linked fighters, some who consider Morsi’s Brotherhood to be too moderate, and tribesmen who have used the area for smuggling and other criminal activity.

However, Islamic militancy has been on the rise in the area, with almost daily attacks targeting security forces since Morsi’s ouster.

Monday’s attack targeting the police officers took place near the border town of Rafah in northern Sinai. A few hours later, militants shot to death a senior police officer as he stood guard outside a bank in el-Arish, another city in the largely lawless area, security officials said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for either attack. The United States condemned the slaying of the police officers and repeated its commitment to help Egypt combat terrorism in Sinai. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also denounced the attack.

“The Sinai Peninsula remains an area of concern, and the current situation in Egypt has not improved the situation,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington. “The United States continues to support Egypt’s ongoing efforts against terrorism and growing lawlessness in the Sinai, and we continue to co-operate with Egypt in these efforts.”

The attacks came a day after security forces killed 36 detainees during a riot on a prison-bound truck convoy north of Cairo. The killings came as police fired tear gas to free a guard who was trapped in the melee, security officials said.

On Monday, the government ordered an inquiry into the deaths, which it blamed on armed men allegedly trying to help the 600 Muslim Brotherhood detainees escape. It gave no details.

The Brotherhood blamed military chief, Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, and the interior minister for Sunday’s killings. The group also called for an international inquiry into the deaths.

The United States said it was troubled by the “suspicious deaths” of the prisoners.

“We call on all Egypt’s leaders and the international community to condemn such attacks without equivocation,” said Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman.

Amnesty International demanded a “full, impartial and effective” probe into the events.

Morsi has been held in an undisclosed location since his ouster. On Monday, prosecutors ordered his detention for 15 days in connection with allegations that he conspired to kill and torture protesters during mass demonstrations by the opposition outside his presidential palace in December 2012.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chris Scott, owner of The Whistle Stop Cafe, was put in handcuffs after an anti-restriction protest Saturday in the parking lot of the business. (Screenshot via The Whistle Stop Facebook page)
UPDATE: Central Alberta cafe owner arrested after anti-restriction protest

The owner of a central Alberta cafe, which was the site of… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer now has 911 active COVID-19 cases

Central zone has 2,917 active cases

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre's expansion project is still a high priority, says Alberta Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer hospital ICU admissions stable, but rising, says surgeon

The Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre’s intensive care unit is in better… Continue reading

Alberta recorded a single-day record of over 57,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered. (Photo courtesy Alberta Health Services Twitter)
Alberta hits daily record of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered

Central zone has administered 111,735 doses of the COVID-19

FILE - A firefighter wears a mask as he drives his truck. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward, File
VIDEO: Flames rip through Edmonton-area seniors complex, but no fatalities

ST. ALBERT, Alta. — Fire has destroyed part of a retirement complex… Continue reading

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, is setting off a social media reaction with his calls to stop non essential shopping, such as "buying sandals at Costco", with this photo of his worn sandals, which he published to social media on Saturday, May 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Dr. Robert Strang, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Nova Scotia’s top doctor sparks meme with caution on non-essential shopping

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s top doctor has launched a social media meme… Continue reading

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. Canada's chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Tam warns that full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Canada’s chief public health officer reminded Canadians on Saturday that even those… Continue reading

Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour conducts drills during NHL hockey training camp in Morrisville, N.C., Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
NHL relaxing virus protocols for vaccinated playoff teams

The NHL is relaxing virus protocols for teams that reach a threshold… Continue reading

Canada skip Kerri Einarson directs her teammates against Sweden in a qualification game at the Women's World Curling Championship in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, May 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canada’s Einarson eliminated at curling worlds after 8-3 loss to Sweden’s Hasselborg

CALGARY — Canada’s Kerri Einarson was eliminated at the world women’s curling… Continue reading

Jennifer Coffman, owner of Truffle Pigs in Field, B.C., poses beside her business sign on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in this handout photo. Her restaurant and lodge have been hit hard by a closure of a section of the Trans-Canada Highway and by the British Columbia government discouraging Alberta residents from visiting during the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Jennifer Coffman, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘Why we survive’: B.C. boundary towns struggle without Albertans during pandemic

Jennifer Coffman didn’t expect to get hit with a double whammy at… Continue reading

A courtroom at the Edmonton Law Courts building, in Edmonton on Friday, June 28, 2019. The effect of the coronavirus pandemic will have a lasting impact on the Canadian justice system warn a number of legal experts. The Alberta Court of Queen's Bench announced Sunday it would adjourn all scheduled trials across the province for at least 10-weeks limiting hearings to only emergency or urgent matters. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton mother found guilty of manslaughter in death of five-year-old girl

EDMONTON — An Edmonton woman was found guilty Friday of manslaughter in… Continue reading

A Statistics Canada 2016 Census mailer sits on the key board of a laptop after arriving in the mail at a residence in Ottawa, May 2, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Statistics Canada sees more demand to fill out census online during pandemic

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says the response to the census is higher… Continue reading

Travellers, who are not affected by new quarantine rules, arrive at Terminal 3 at Pearson Airport in Toronto, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. Ottawa will create a new digital platform to help in processing immigration applications more quickly and efficiently after COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need for a faster shift to a digital immigration system, the immigration department said. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ottawa to create new system to tackle delays in processing immigration applications

Ottawa says it will create a new digital platform to help process… Continue reading

Most Read