Egypt executes army plotters: Military courts send tough warning to Islamic militants bent on overthrowing government

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The Independent Online
TWO Egyptian army officers were executed by firing squad in Alexandria yesterday for plotting to blow up President Hosni Mubarak, and a military court sentenced nine extremists to death for an attempt on the life of the Prime Minister, Atef Sedki.

The Egyptian authorities have said nothing publicly about the plot against Mr Mubarak. Such is the sensitivity of the case that the officially controlled media have not report on the plot, the trial, the verdict or its finale. A third officer accused of the attempt on the President's life is still at large. The information comes from 'military sources', published only in opposition papers.

The three were convicted in a secret trial of planting explosives at an airstrip near the Libyan border, which Mr Mubarak was to use when meeting the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

Infiltration of the armed forces by Islamist extremists is an abiding nightmare of the Egyptian authorities. It was a group of army officers and men of the Jihad organisation who assassinated President Anwar Sadat in Cairo in October 1981 - when Mr Mubarak, as Vice-President, was standing at his side. The army, as a conscript force, necessarily reflects the society from which soldiers are recruited, and inevitably a proportion of those who espouse revolutionary Islam will serve in the armed forces unless they are spotted and weeded out.

Few believe the central government is weak enough, or the potential plotters organised enough, for the assassination attempts to add up to a real threat of a coup at this stage.

Of the nine condemned to death in Cairo, five are on the run. They were among 15 men charged with trying to kill Mr Sedki with a car bomb, which blew up as his armoured motorcade passed through Cairo on 25 November. A schoolgirl was killed in the attack.

One man was acquitted, one sentenced to three years' imprisonment, one to five years and three to 15 years.

It was the largest number of death sentences in a single trial since 1992, when the government began using military courts to try militants fighting to establish an Islamic state. In the past 15 months, 50 Islamist extremists have been sentenced to death and 32 of those have been hanged.

'Mubarak, how many are you going to imprison, how many are you going to torture and execute? Islam will spring up through our children,' one convicted militant shouted.

'We tell Mubarak, the military courts failed in Algiers and will fail in Egypt. All the Muslims will be liberated soon, God willing,' one of the militants said.

(Photograph omitted)