News Column

Egypt: 36 Islamists Killed in Custody

August 19, 2013

Egyptian security forces killed at least 36 Islamists in custody, Cairo said as Iraq joined other Arab countries supporting the military crackdown on Islamists.

The killings Sunday occurred during an escape attempt by Islamist prisoners, Gen. Hani Abdullatif, an Interior Ministry spokesman, said.

The prisoners tried to escape from a prison transport vehicle taking them from a pre-detention facility to the large Abu Zaabal penitentiary near Cairo, Egypt's state-run television reported.

They were among more than 600 supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi traveling in a convoy of Islamists arrested since Thursday, al-Jazeera reported.

Those who were killed had been arrested at the end of a siege at Cairo's Fateh mosque Saturday, the network said.

The detainees died of asphyxiation after officers fired tear gas through the windows of the crowded prison van the detainees had hijacked, Abdullatif said.

The prisoners had tried to escape by luring a corrections driver into the cab by telling him a detainee was injured, Abdullatif said.

Egypt's state TV and the official Middle East News Agency gave a conflicting report, saying armed gunmen seized the corrections vehicle by force.

MENA said the detainees were killed in a shootout, not by tear gas.

The various accounts had not been verified.

The Muslim Brotherhood Islamist religious, political and social movement described the deaths as "assassinations" and said the victims -- which it said numbered 52 -- had simply been shot and tear-gassed through the windows of a locked prison van.

The deaths were the fourth mass killing of civilians since the military took control July 3 and the first time so many died while in government custody, The New York Times said.

The killings occurred the same day Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki added his voice to a growing number of Arab leaders supporting the crackdown.

"We stand strongly with the Egyptian government in imposing the rule of law and establishing security and civil peace across all of Egypt," Maliki said in a statement on his website.

He called for "all Egyptians to renounce violence and come to the dialogue table" to bridge "sectarian divisions," the statement monitored by United Press International said.

Maliki closed by wishing his "sister" nation "security, prosperity and a rapid return to ... its pivotal role in the region and the world."

Several other Arab leaders, including Saudi King Abdullah, have come out in support of the crackdown.

Abdullah said in statement read Friday on Saudi television the events in Egypt were an Arab affair.

"Let it be known to those who interfered in Egypt's internal affairs that they themselves are fanning the fire of sedition and are promoting the terrorism which they call for fighting," he declared, without mentioning any country by name.

The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Jordan expressed support for Abdullah's backing of Cairo's tough stance. Kuwait said it supported Cairo's "measures to preserve security and stability, as well as achieving aspirations of the Egyptian people through the government's road map," the official Kuwait News Agency said.

Egyptian Interim President Adly Mansour hailed Abdullah's support, saying Egypt would "never" forget his "historic stance."

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Source: Copyright UPI 2013

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