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| 17 November, 2017

Egypt orders suspected Libyan militant, 14 others be held over desert attack

Image used for illustrative purpose.
An Egyptian soldier keeps guard on the border between Egypt and southern Gaza Strip July 8, 2013.

Image used for illustrative purpose. An Egyptian soldier keeps guard on the border between Egypt and southern Gaza Strip July 8, 2013.

REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Abdelrahim Mohamed al-Mesmari, from the Libyan city of Derna, was captured by Egyptian forces following the attack.

CAIRO - The Egyptian public prosecutor ordered that a suspected Libyan militant and 14 others be held for 15 days pending an investigation of their role in a deadly attack in Egypt's western desert last month, state news MENA reported on Friday.

The Interior Ministry said on Thursday that Abdelrahim Mohamed al-Mesmari, from the Libyan city of Derna, was captured by Egyptian forces following the attack.

Security sources initially said at least 52 policemen were killed when militants attacked a patrol, firing rockets and detonating explosives in a remote part of the desert. The Interior Ministry refuted those figures and said 16 were killed.

Charges against Mesmari will include premeditated murder of police officers, possession of firearms and joining a terrorist organisation, MENA reported.

A new and little-known group called Ansar al-Islam claimed responsibility for the October attack, posing a new threat to Egyptian security forces, which have been battling an Islamic State insurgency in the Sinai peninsula since 2013.

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The Interior Ministry said previously that it killed 15 militants and arrested 29 during a raid against the group it blamed for the attack, and said that all had been trained in Dern.

(Reporting by Omar Fahmy; Writing by Eric Knecht; Editing by Larry King) ((eric.knecht@thomsonreuters.com; +20 2 2394 8102; Reuters Messaging: eric.knecht.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))