CAIRO — Egypt's chief prosecutor charged 200 suspected militants Saturday with carrying out more than 50 terrorist attacks, killing 40 policemen and 15 civilians and conspiring with the Palestinian militant group Hamas, in the first mass trial of a Jihadi group since the country's recent turmoil.
The defendants, 98 of whom remain on the run, are all suspected members of the al-Qaida-inspired Ansar Beit al-Maqdis group, or Champions of Jerusalem, which has claimed responsibility for the bloodiest attacks since a wave of violence picked up after the military overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi last summer.
The prosecutor's statement refers to the group as "the most dangerous terrorist group," and accuses the defendants of receiving military training in the Palestinian Gaza Strip under the patronage of Hamas. It also says they traveled to Syria where they took part in fighting against government forces before returning to Egypt.
Washington designated the group as a terrorist organization in April, accusing it of carrying out attacks in Israel, against security forces and tourists in Egypt.
Officials in Egypt accuse Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood of orchestrating the violence. The government has gone further, outlawing the Brotherhood and branding it a terrorist organization.
Although producing little evidence of any links, authorities, including ex-military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, allege the militant groups are a front for the Brotherhood. In this referral, the prosecutors say Morsi had dealings with the group while in office but gave no further evidence of the alleged links.
The Brotherhood, which officially renounced violence in the 1970s, denies the accusations and calls them a pretext to wipe out the government's top political rival, which won a string of elections since the 2011 fall of longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
El-Sissi, who overthrew Morsi, is the front-runner in the presidential elections scheduled later this month, and has vowed to fight terrorism and said he will not allow the Brotherhood to return to politics during his term.
So far, el-Sissi, who is riding an overwhelming media frenzy lauding him as Egypt's savior for overthrowing Morsi, has appeared in one pre-recorded interview, and met privately with representatives of professional groups, businessmen, and tribal leaders. His campaign is expected to include few street appearances, mainly because of security concerns. In the interview, he said two assassination plots against him have already been uncovered, without giving details.