Egypt arrests militant linked to string of attacks

Police arrested one of Egypt’s most wanted Islamist militants as he arrived back in the country on Sunday following an order to leave Iran, airport security sources and state media said.

Mohamed Shawqi el-Islambuli, brother of Khalid el-Islambuli who killed former President Anwar al-Sadat in 1981, was sentenced to death in absentia in 1992 for plotting from abroad to overthrow the state.

He was sentenced again in 1999 in a landmark trial of more than 100 suspected members of the Gama’a al-Islamiya movement blamed for a massacre of tourists in the southern city of Luxor, an embassy bombing in Pakistan and a series of killings and assassination attempts including one against Sadat’s successor Hosni Mubarak.

Unconfirmed media reports later that year said Islambuli had retired from the group, leading some experts on Islamic militancy to suspect divisions among Gama’a al-Islamiya members over whether to renounce violence.

The group’s leadership said later it had turned its back on violence and would support a civil constitution for Egypt with an Islamic reference.

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri, sentenced in absentia at the same trial, said in 2006 that Islambuli had joined al-Qaeda along with other members of the movement.

Islambuli arrived from Iran via Dubai, was arrested soon after his plane landed and handed over to criminal investigators for presentation before a military prosecutor, the airport sources said.

State news agency MENA said he would be transferred to a Cairo prison to await a date for a retrial as required in cases of sentencing in absentia.

Islambuli’s lawyer, Nizar Ghorab, said his client was severely ill and he had demanded he be transferred to hospital.

He said Islambuli should be treated in the same hospital ward as the ailing Mubarak, who was ousted by a popular uprising on February 11, “to respect the principle of equal treatment.”

Islambuli returned after Iran’s government told him he must leave the country and could travel either to Egypt or Pakistan. After failed attempts to enter Pakistan and Turkey, he boarded a plane to return to Egypt, said Ghorab.

Egypt’s ties with Iran have been improving since Mubarak was toppled from power. — Reuters

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