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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

Egypt detains suspected Libyan militant over desert attack

Prosecutor also orders 14 other suspects to be held for 15 days

Destroyed vehicles of an Egyptian police convoy which came under fire in an ambush by militants in the Western Desert in late October. Ministry of Defence via Reuters
Destroyed vehicles of an Egyptian police convoy which came under fire in an ambush by militants in the Western Desert in late October. Ministry of Defence via Reuters

The Egyptian public prosecutor has 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, the state news agency 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 Mr Al 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 ISIL insurgency in the Sinai peninsula since 2013.

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)