Four Islamic terrorists were sentenced to death on 6 March 2023 by the Supreme State Security Court, for killing Coptic pilgrims in the vicinity of the Western Desert monastery of Anba Samuel al-Muetarrif (St Samuel the Confessor), some 220km southwest Cairo. The terrorists attacked the Coptic pilgrims in two incidents almost 18 months apart: 28 pilgrims were killed and 25 injured on 26 May 2017 as their buses drove through the road heading to the monastery; another seven lost their lives and 15 were injured in an attack on 2 November 2018 on the same road after they left the monastery. Daesh claimed responsibility for the attacks, and promised more to come.
The terrorism division of the Supreme State Security Court has referred the files of four out of 10 defendants—among them women—standing before the court, to the Mufti for Islamic legal opinion on sentencing them to death. In Egypt, a death sentence cannot become final until it is approved by the Mufti, the official in charge of issuing Islamic legal opinions (fatwas). The court has set the date 8 May 2023 to pronounce the final judgement.
The four defendants are Ezzat Mohamed Hassan Hussein whose code name is Abu-Mohamed, 36; Mahmoud Gamal Abdel-Moneim Mohamed, known as Abul-Barraa, 27; Mahmoud Shaaban Ali, known as Abu-Talha, 22; and Mustafa Salah Abdel-Moneim Ali Aqiqi, 31. The second and fourth defendants were sentenced in absentia since they are on the run.
The men were charged with establishing and leading a terrorist group whose purpose is to obstruct the Constitution and laws, prevent State institutions and public authorities from conducting their work, attack the personal freedom of individuals, and damage national unity and social peace. The group is affiliated to the terrorist group Daesh, also known as Islamic State (IS), which calls for considering the ruler an infidel and gives legitimacy to rebelling against him, and for changing the system of government by force, attacking members of the armed forces and the police and their facilities, targeting public facilities and usurping their funds; all with the aim of disturbing public order and jeopardising the safety and security of society. To attain their goals, the groups resorted to terrorist acts as revealed in the investigations.
Shortly after the November 2018 attack, investigations by the National Security sector revealed that a group of the terrorists, among them those implicated in the St Samuel Monastery incident, were barricading themselves in the surrounding rugged mountainous area. Police forces raided the area; 19 terrorists were killed. In another raid, the police killed two of the masterminds of the St Samuel Monastery attack: Abu-Masaab and Abu-Sahib. The surviving terrorists were brought to court.
For details on the May 2017 and November 2018 attacks:
7 March 2023