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Friday, March 11, 2011     GET REAL

Egypt launches manhunt for prison escapees;
300 said to have terror links

CAIRO — Egypt has launched a manhunt for thousands of prisoners who escaped during the last days of the regime of President Hosni Mubarak.


Officials said the Interior Ministry has directed a search for more than 8,000 prisoners who broke out of their cells in February. They said the inmates contained a hard core of more than 300 insurgents linked to such groups as Al Qaida, Hamas and Hizbullah.

"Egyptian security has maintained relentless efforts to arrest other prisoners who fled jails during mass jailbreaks, and to help restore stability and security all over Egypt," the Interior Ministry said.

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On March 8, the ministry reported the arrest of 100 escaped prisoners, Middle East Newsline reported. They said 84 of them surrendered on their own.

The ministry statement said security forces also found and confiscated 40 guns. The statement did not disclose the source of the firearms, believed to have been taken from security facilities.

Officials said the post-Mubarak military regime has directed a law-and-order campaign amid the security vacuum in many Egyptian cities. They said police were hampered by the defection of thousands of officers during the last days of Mubarak's 30-year rule.

"There is an immediate need to restore order in the streets," an official said.

The ministry has called on the escaped prisoners to surrender. Officials said the former inmates would not be harmed and could enjoy privileges if they surrender by March 13.

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