Egyptian troops take up positions in front of protesters.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Egyptian military forces operating in the Sinai uncovered a large cache of weapons near the border with Israel on Tuesday, according to Channel 2.
The weapons, which were discovered near the Egyptian side of Rafah, were earmarked for the radical jihadist group Ansar Bayit al-Maqdis, which in the past has launched rockets at Eilat. More recently, it has claimed credit for the beheading of Egyptian Beduins alleged to have spied for Israel.
It is considered the largest stockpile of enemy weaponry to have been confiscated by Egyptian forces, according to Channel 2. Soldiers discovered five tons of explosives as well as rocket components.
The government of President Abdel Fatteh al-Sisi has waged a campaign to crack down on Islamist forces at war with the military since it engineered the ouster of Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader who won a democratic election.
Earlier on Tuesday, an Egyptian court recommended death sentences for seven men, including a prominent Islamist militant, charged with killing 25 policemen last year in an attack near the border with Israel, a judicial source told Reuters.
He said the court had referred the case to the Grand Mufti, Egypt's highest Muslim authority, whose opinion is typically sought on capital punishment but whose decision can be disregarded.
"The court decided by consensus to send the case to the Grand Mufti," he told Reuters.
The high-profile militant, Adel Habara, was in custody, he said, but he could not immediately say where the others were.
The final ruling is due on Dec. 6, after the Mufti offers his opinion. It can be appealed.
The attack took place in August 2013 following the government's violent clearing of two protest camps in Cairo, where supporters of deposed Islamist president Mohamed Mursi had gathered to demand his reinstatement.
Sisi now faces a growing Islamist insurgency in the lawless Sinai Peninsula adjoining Israel and the Gaza Strip.
Thousands of Brotherhood supporters have been rounded up in Sisi's crackdown and hundreds have since been sentenced to death. Liberal activists have also been suppressed by Sisi, with many of the leading lights of the 2011 popular uprising also facing trial for breaking a law that seeks to curb protests.
More than 500 people, mostly police and soldiers, have been killed across Egypt in Islamist militant attacks since last summer, according to government statistics.
Officials have also expressed concern about fighters crossing Egypt's western border from Libya, where militant violence and factional chaos has ticked up noticeably this year.
Sisi's government does not differentiate between radical Islamist groups based mainly in the Sinai and the Brotherhood, which maintains it is a peaceful organization and denied any connection with recent anti-state violence.