CAIRO Egypt has accused exiled Muslim Brotherhood officials of conspiring with Gaza-based Hamas militants to assassinate Public Prosecutor Hisham Barakat last year and arrested 14 people in connection with the attack.
Barakat, 64, was killed by a car bomb in Cairo in June 2015. He was the most senior state official assassinated since the toppling in mid-2013 of elected president Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood. There was no claim of responsibility for the attack at the time.
Interior Ministry Magdi Abdel Ghaffar told a news conference that the attack was ordered by Turkey-based leaders of Egypt's oldest Islamist movement and coordinated with Hamas. He accused Hamas of helping to provide training and explosives.
He said the authorities had arrested 48 members of a Muslim Brotherhood cell aimed at undermining security through a series of attacks. Fourteen of them had confessed to killing Barakat.
"This is a very big conspiracy that started a long time ago and continued," he said.
A judicial source told Reuters on Sunday that six people had been arrested for Barakat's murder. The official MENA news agency reported that those arrested were suspects in several acts of "terrorism, possessing and using explosives, and joining a terrorist group".
Judges and other senior officials have been targeted by radical Islamists since then-military chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted Mursi after mass protests against his rule.
Sisi, who went on to win a presidential election the next year, banned the Brotherhood and jailed thousands of its followers. Security forces killed hundreds of Mursi supporters in a single day in the bloodiest episode in Egypt's modern history.
The Egyptian judiciary says it is independent of the government and military, but some judges have been accused of bias after handing down lengthy jail terms and mass death sentences.
The crackdown, which has included restrictions on freedom of protest, has angered many opponents of Sisi who has struggled to suppress an insurgency that is raging in the Sinai Peninsula which borders Hamas-controlled Gaza.
The attack last June cast doubt on Egypt's ability to contain an Islamist insurgency based in Sinai that has killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers since Sisi took over. The Brotherhood has been banned and designated as a terrorist organisation. The group says it rejects violence.
The most active militant group is Sinai Province, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State, the jihadist group that has seized control of significant areas of Iraq and Syria.
(Additional reporting by Haitham Ahmed, Omar Fahmy and Mostafa Hashem; Writing by Lin Noueihed; Editing by David Goodman and Stephen Powell)
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