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Egypt

Egypt state of emergency extended for two more months

Egypt has extended a state of emergency for two months as the military authorities expressed growing concern over militant violence. More Mubarak-era officials have been acquitted by the courts.

The interim, military backed government in Egypt originally announced a one-month state of emergency on August 14. On Thursday it extended the order, which covers the whole country, to mid-November. The president's office said the decision had been taken because of the security situation.

The decision brought a rapid response from the US administration: "We remain opposed, as we have from the beginning, to the state of emergency. And we urge the interim government to end it immediately," State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters.

"The interim government and military must ensure due process and that any citizens arrested by police or military are referred only to civilian courts," Harf added.

Palestinian Hamas accused

Also on Thursday, Egyptian state television accused Palestinian Hamas of training Egyptian Islamists in how to carry out bombings. Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, are allies.

"Security authorities have learned that the military wing of the Hamas movement trained several people to undertake car-bombing operations and trained various others to make explosives," said a presenter on state television.

"The military wing of the Hamas movement provided various Salafi jihadists and also other religious currents with 400 landmines. The security apparatus documented this and they will be arrested."

Fawzi Barhoum, spokesman for the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip, said of the report, "This is completely incorrect." He claimed it was an "attempt to demonise Hamas."

The army-backed government in Egypt has tightened control of crossings from the Sinai peninsula into Gaza, which Egypt ruled from 1948 to 1967, and continued assaults on militants in Sinai.

The Sinai-based group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has claimed responsibility for last week's suicide bombing aimed at Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim. Another group called Jund al-Islam (Soldiers of Islam) put out a statement on a Facebook page claiming responsibility for two attacks on the Egyptian army, including the car bomb that exploded at an intelligence facility in Egypt's Sinai on Wednesday, killing four people.

Mubarak-era defendants acquitted

An Egyptian court on Thursday acquitted all 14 defendants, including policemen, accused of killing 17 protesters during the bloodiest day of a revolt that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak over two years ago, judicial sources said. The deaths in Suez City triggered violence across Egypt on what was later called "The Friday of Rage" - January 28, 2011 - that fuelled an 18-day uprising against Mubarak, who had ruled Egypt for 30 years.

The case is the latest in a series in which Mubarak-era officials were either acquitted or given light sentences.

Islamist supporters of ousted, and still detained, president Mohamed Morsi plan rallies demanding his reinstatement on Friday.

jm/lw (Reuters, AP)