Egypt hangs Muslim militants

CAIRO - Egypt hanged six Muslim militants yesterday for murder and conspiracy to overthrow the government. The six men were hanged one after the other in a Cairo prison in a process that took several hours.

The hangings brought the number of militants executed this year to 29, by far the highest number of people executed for political crimes in Egypt in any year this century. But the executions, after swift trials in military courts condemned by human rights groups, have not stopped a two-year campaign of violence by Muslim militant groups.

One of the main movements, el-Gamaat el-Islamiya (the Islamic Group) shot dead a police intelligence colonel in Cairo on Saturday in revenge for the execution of three militants on Thursday - including a man it said had been plotting with armed forces officers to kill the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

On Sunday, Gamaat gunmen killed a police brigadier, his driver and a bodyguard in the southern university town of Assiut, 325 km (200 miles) south of Cairo.

Police returning from a raid on a mosque in a nearby town took on the attackers, killing all three but losing two officers dead. A militant died in the mosque raid and a taxi driver was killed in crossfire, bringing the death toll from the day's bloodshed to 10.

Then yesterday morning, as the hangings began in Cairo, suspected Gamaat gunmen shot dead a policeman walking to work in the town of Manfalut near Assiut.

The six men executed yesterday belonged to the other main militant organisation, Jihad (Holy Struggle), a revival of the group that assassinated Anwar Sadat in 1981.

The six were among 40 found guilty on October 30 of belonging to the Talaeh el-Fatah (Vanguards of Victory), part of Jihad. Several were convicted in their absence, including a man who died in a bomb attack on the Interior Minister, Hassan el-Alfi, in August while the trial was taking place.

The hangings completed the execution of all 29 men sentenced to death who had been in custody. A further 10 militants under death sentence are on the run and several are believed to be abroad, in Afghanistan or Europe.

The Gamaat launched its campaign of violence in early 1992, using its strength in the towns and villages around Assiut to kill policemen and to make a series of gun and bomb attacks on foreigners that devastated Egypt's tourist industry.

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