Egyptian police chief killed: Ambush follows hanging of Islamic fundamentalists

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CAIRO (Reuter) - Gunmen shot dead a deputy police chief of the Egyptian province of Qena, home of several of the 15 Muslim militants hanged in June and July for attacks on police and foreign tourists, security sources said.

They said two or three gunmen raked Major-General Mohammed Abdel-Hamid Ghubara's car with automatic-rifle fire as it waited at a railway crossing in Nag Hammadi, a town on the Nile 285 miles south of Cairo, on Saturday evening. Ghubara's driver and bodyguard were also killed.

The sources said Ghubara, deputy police chief for the northern part of Qena, had been heading for a police station in Nag Hammadi after visiting an aluminium factory in the town. He had been in his job only five days.

Nag Hammadi, 460km (290 miles) south of Cairo, is near the Valley of the Kings and has been the scene of extremist attacks on foreign tourists.

A police official said investigators succeeded in identifying the two assailants, who fled on a motorcycle. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the attackers were believed to be Muslim extremists.

Muslim militants have been waging a campaign of assassinations and bombings against the government. Cairo has fought back with bloody police raids and the 15 hangings, the largest number of executions for political offences this century. Attacks on tourists, which wrecked Egypt's booming tourist industry, appear to have stopped.

But militants tried to ambush an army general in Cairo last month and in recent weeks have killed three people who co-operated with police in the province of Assiut, north of Qena.

ALGIERS - An Algiers court condemned 34 Muslim fundamentalists to death at the weekend.

The government Moudjahid newspaper said yesterday that five of the condemned were among 22 men in court where a table loaded with captured weapons underscored charges including setting up an armed group, conspiracy against the state, murder, kidnapping and sabotage.

They were named as Faycal Chenine, Rachid Mahi, Ali Baaa - who was condemned to death in the 1980s for taking part in an armed Islamic movement but pardoned in 1990 - Faycal Doussas and Ahmed Bousbia. A further 29 men now being hunted were sentenced to death in their absence, the newspaper said.

A special court, one of three which were set up late last year to combat violence blamed on fundamentalists, tried the 22, who were captured in a manhunt after an army unit had been ambushed.