Mubarak takes religious road

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

CAIRO (Reuter) - President Hosni Mubarak has launched a religious offensive against Muslim militants fighting to overthrow him, making a sudden pilgrimage to Mecca and appealing for his own vision of a tolerant Islam.

Saudi radio said the Egyptian leader arrived in Mecca, where the prophet Mohammed proclaimed Islam 1,400 years ago, on Friday night and went yesterday to the Grand Mosque, the religion's holiest shrine. It added that Mr Mubarak met King Fahd, but said nothing of what they discussed.

The President's spiritual campaign follows a new ruthlessness in police action against militants which has made March the bloodiest month in a year of rising political violence in Egypt. At least 42 people have been killed and 83 injured in assaults by police and intelligence services on a mosque packed with militants in Aswan and on slum flats used by militants in Cairo and Assiut.