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Prominent hard-line Islamist dies in Egyptian prison

August 9, 2015

CAIRO (AP) — A leading member of Egypt’s hard-line Islamist group Gamaa Islamiya, which waged an armed insurgency against the government in the 1990s, has died in prison, an official said Sunday.

Interior Ministry official Maj. Gen. Hassan el-Sohagi said that Essam Derbala, 58, died of natural causes. A statement from Gamaa Islamiya’s political party accused Egyptian authorities of “assassination,” saying authorities intentionally deprived Derbala of medicine and subjected him to psychological torture.

A prison official, speaking on condition of anonymity as he wasn’t authorized to speak to journalists, denied the group’s accusations.

Derbala was arrested earlier this year and accused of inciting violence.

Gamaa Islamiya later renounced violence and was a strong ally of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

Meanwhile in the restive northern Sinai Peninsula, a roadside bomb hit a police armored vehicle in the city of el-Arish, killing an officer and a conscript and wounding three, security officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to brief reporters.

Also Sunday, a group calling itself “Revolutionary Punishment” claimed responsibility on Twitter for an attack Saturday on a police vehicle carrying prisoners between Cairo and the oasis province of Fayoum to the southwest that killed one officer and wounded three.

The group is believed to mostly consist of Islamist youths seeking revenge for the ongoing crackdown on Morsi’s supporters.

In the province of Suez just west of the Sinai, two militants opened fire on a joint police and army patrol, killing a police lieutenant colonel and wounding a soldier, military spokesman Brig. Gen. Mohammed Samir said.

Members of the patrol returned fire, killing one of the two assailants, Samir said.

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Associated Press writer Maamoun Youssef contributed to this report.

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