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Egypt Court Sentences 26 To Death Over Suez Canal Bomb Plot

<p>An Egyptian court sentenced 26 people to death for plotting attacks on ships in the Suez Canal.</p>

Death sentences were handed down to 26 people Wednesday by an Egyptian court for plotting attacks on ships passing through the Suez Canal, a judicial source told Reuters.

None of the accused were in court to face the charges so they were tried in absentia, Reuters reported.

The defendants were accused of "founding and leading a terror group that aimed to attack people's freedom, damage national unity and (attack) the Suez canal waterway", another source told agency AFP.

The case has now been referred to the Grand Mufti, Egypt's top government cleric, who has the power to commute the death sentences if they contradict Islamic law.

The canal, which runs between Port Said and Suez, is a vital global trade route between the Red Sea and Mediterranean and is seen as a prize target for insurgents looking to destabilize the Egyptian economy.

An Islamist insurgency has gained momentum since the army overthrew president Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July. A subsequent crackdown on Islamists and liberals saw hundreds killed and thousands jailed.

Charlene Gubash and Reuters contributed to this report.