Egyptian judges shot dead in Sinai hours after former president Mohamed Morsi sentenced to death

It was unclear whether the reported murders were linked to the sentencing

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The Independent Online

Three Egyptian judges have been shot dead hours after deposed former president Mohamed Morsi was sentenced to death.

Police said the judges were travelling in a car in the city of al-Arish, Sinai, when it was attacked by suspected Islamist gunmen.

An fourth person was killed and at least three more were injured in the assault.

A militant believed to support Mohamed Morsi during attacks on security forces in al-Arish after he was deposed in August 2013

It is unclear whether the attack was linked to anger over the death sentence passed for Mr Morsi in Cairo but the Egyptian government has blamed Muslim Brotherhood supporters for violence in Sinai in the past.

Mr Morsi's party has been banned and hundreds of its former officials and supporters have been arrested and jailed.

Egypt's interior ministry said a policeman was also killed on Saturday in the outskirts of Cairo by gunmen on motorcycles.

The shootings came days after another judge was the victim of an assassination attempt.

Al-Arish is just 30 miles from the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip

Moataz Khafagi, who sentenced 12 Muslim Brotherhood members to death last year after convicting them of killing a police general, survived bomb blasts outside his home in Cairo suburb that damaged several cars but caused no casualties.

The Sinai Peninsula has seen frequent outbreaks of violence in recent months and terrorist attacks prompted the Egyptian government to declare a state of emergency last year.

In January, an Isis-affiliated group claimed responsibility for rocket and bomb attacks on the military and police that killed at least 26 people.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has raised concern about the deteriorating situation and advises against all travel to North Sinai, where al-Arish is situated.

President Al-Sisi called three days of national morning mourning following attacks in the Sinai Peninsula last year

“Terrorists and criminals seek to prevent the Egyptian authorities from exercising control,” a spokesperson said.

“There are regular bomb attacks against government buildings, security forces and energy infrastructure.

“The al-Arish area has seen many attacks, but the whole of the North Sinai region is at risk.”

The Egyptian army are fighting militants in the area and several hundred people are believed to have died in battles since July 2013, when security forces were attacked by people angry at the coup against Mr Morsi.

Sinai borders the Gaza strip and Egyptian state prosecutors have claimed that Mr Morsi colluded with the Palestinian Hamas group while his predecessor was being overthrown during the Arab Spring.

They alleged that during the 18-day uprising in 2011, militants passed through illegal tunnels between Gaza and Sinai to enter Egypt and help hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters, including Mr Morsi, escape jails in the capital in violent prison breaks.

Mr Morsi has also faced charges relating to the killing and torture of protesters, passing state secrets to Hamas, Hezbollah and Qatar, fraud and "insulting the judiciary". He has rejected the courts' authority and his supporters say all the cases are politically motivated.