Prominent hard-line Islamist dies in Egyptian prison

AP News
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Posted: Aug 09, 2015 10:23 AM

CAIRO (AP) — A leading member of Egypt's hard-line Islamist group Gamaa Islamiya, which waged an armed insurgency against the government in the 1990s, has died in prison, an official said Sunday.

Interior Ministry official Maj. Gen. Hassan el-Sohagi said that Essam Derbala, 58, died of natural causes. A statement from Gamaa Islamiya's political party accused Egyptian authorities of "assassination," saying authorities intentionally deprived Derbala of medicine and subjected him to psychological torture.

A prison official, speaking on condition of anonymity as he wasn't authorized to speak to journalists, denied the group's accusations.

Derbala was arrested earlier this year and accused of inciting violence.

Gamaa Islamiya waged an armed insurgency in Egypt in the 1990s, but later renounced violence. It was a strong ally of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi before and during his year in office.

Meanwhile in the restive northern part of the Sinai Peninsula, a roadside bomb hit a police armored vehicle in el-Arish, killing an officer and a conscript and wounding three others, security officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to brief reporters.

Also Sunday, a group calling itself "Revolutionary Punishment" claimed responsibility on its Twitter account for an attack by gunmen on a police vehicle carrying prisoners on the road between Cairo and Fayoum the previous day that killed one officer and wounded three.

The group is believed to mostly consist of Islamist youths seeking revenge for the ongoing crackdown on Morsi's supporters.

Egypt has been battling an Islamic insurgency in northern Sinai for years, but attacks against the army and police increased after the July 2013 military ouster of Morsi.

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Associated Press writer Maamoun Youssef contributed to this report.