May 3, 12:53 PM EDT

Egypt charges 40 over allegedly being Islamic State members



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CAIRO (AP) -- A Nile Delta prosecutor said Sunday he referred 40 people to trial on charges of belonging to the Islamic State group and planning to carry out terrorist attacks in Egypt.

The announcement marks the first time people in Egypt's Nile Delta have been accused of belonging to the group, which holds a third of Iraq and Syria in its self-declared caliphate.

Bilal Abu Khadra, a prosecutor in Egypt's Sharqiya province, said that those charged communicated with Islamic State militants in Syria. He also said the cell's leader confessed to receiving money from the extremists to recruit and help militants travel to Syria.

Khadra said 20 of the defendants are detained, while the others will be tried in absentia.

The Islamic State group gained a foothold in Egypt last November when a Sinai-based militant group declared itself an affiliate of the extremists.

Amid the burgeoning Islamic insurgency in Egypt, thousands have been arrested in the course of a sweeping crackdown on Islamists since the military's 2013 ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

In the latest attack on security forces, militants remotely detonated a bomb Sunday in the Sinai Peninsula south of the city of el-Arish, killing an army conscript and wounding two soldiers, security officials said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

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Associated Press writer Ashraf Sweilam in El-Arish, Egypt, contributed to this report.

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