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An Egyptian court has referred the case of seven defendants facing terrorism charges to the country's top religious authority, the Grand Mufti, for a non-binding opinion on whether they can be executed as the prosecution seeks.

The Cairo Criminal Court says Saturday the defendants are members of a local affiliate of the Islamic State group spearheading an insurgency in northern Sinai.

The men are part of 32 defendants accused of killing eight police, including an officer, when they ambushed a microbus in Cairo's southern suburb of Helwan in May 2016.

The verdict is set for Nov. 12, and the presiding judge may rule independently of the Mufti.

Egypt has battled an insurgency for years in the Sinai Peninsula that has occasionally spilled over to the mainland.



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