Egypt says Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood killed chief prosecutor

AP News
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Posted: Mar 06, 2016 12:41 PM
Egypt says Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood killed chief prosecutor

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt said Sunday that members of the Muslim Brotherhood trained in the Gaza Strip by the Palestinian militant group Hamas carried out the bombing that killed the country's chief prosecutor in Cairo last year.

Interior Minister Magdy Abdel-Ghaffar said 14 people have been detained in connection to the killing of 65-year-old Hisham Barakat last June, the first assassination of a senior Egyptian official in 25 years.

"Hamas trained, prepared, and oversaw the implementation" of the attack, he said in an address broadcast by state and private media, which also aired confessions by some of the alleged perpetrators.

There will be "measures taken" against the group without harming Palestinian civilians, he said, without elaborating.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri condemned the "baseless" accusations. Hamas is considered a terrorist group by the U.S. and other Western countries, but says it confines its attacks to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

There have been no credible claims of responsibility for the bombing that killed Barakat outside his Cairo home on June 29. The Brotherhood, which is now outlawed as a terrorist group, denied any involvement.

Abdel-Ghaffar said a total of 48 people have been arrested from a wider Brotherhood "cell" for planning other attacks, including the 14 suspected of involvement in the killing of Barakat.

Authorities also secured "a number of vehicles that have been prepared for detonation, carrying huge amounts of explosives," he said.

He said Hamas had trained Egyptian Brotherhood members in military and guerrilla warfare tactics before sending them back to Egypt with the help of Bedouin smugglers in the Sinai Peninsula.

Egypt has seen a wave of attacks mainly targeting security forces since the 2013 military overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi, who hailed from the Brotherhood. The government has blamed most of the violence on the Brotherhood -- including attacks claimed by more extreme groups.

Barakat had led the prosecution of Brotherhood members, including Morsi, who was Egypt's first freely elected president but faced mass protests after a divisive year in power.

Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Brotherhood, and enjoyed warm relations with Cairo during Morsi's brief presidency. The current Egyptian government says insurgents have used tunnels between Hamas-ruled Gaza and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula to smuggle in arms.

The interior minister said Yahia Moussa, a health ministry spokesman under Morsi, planned Barakat's assassination from Turkey, where he and other Brotherhood leaders took refuge following Morsi's ouster.

He said the government will use all legal methods to extradite fugitive Brotherhood members. "We are wondering about those countries that allow terror elements to organize and plan attacks in other countries," he added, referring to Turkey.

The wider Brotherhood group of 48 had already carried out attacks, and were planning more targeting officials and embassies of allied nations, Abdel-Ghaffar said.

The government responded to Barakat's assassination by pushing through a wide-ranging anti-terrorism law that broadened the definition of terrorism, gave police greater powers of arrest, and tightened restrictions on free speech. Egypt has jailed thousands of people, mainly Islamists, since Morsi's overthrow.

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Associated Press writer Fares Akram reported from Gaza City, Gaza Strip.