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ISRAEL

Egypt kicks out Swedish journalist

A Swedish journalist was deported by Egypt on Thursday reportedly due to his alleged involvement in pro-Palestinian march, an Egyptian security official told AFP.

Per Björklund, a freelance reporter who worked as a contributor for the Swedish

publication Fria Tidningen, was stopped at Cairo airport when he returned from holiday and was deported early on Thursday, the official said.

Björklund and several other foreigners were present at a peaceful march in January protesting against Israel’s war in the Palestinian Gaza Strip.

The protesters were stopped by police on a road near Cairo, and one, German-Egyptian dual national Philip Rizk, was arrested and held for several days.

Another participant in the march, US citizen Travis Randall, was also denied re-entry to Egypt last month. Both Randall and Björklund lived in Cairo.

“They took part in a protest, and were coming back to plan and participate in another protest,” said the official who requested anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

Björklund, who extensively covered labour disputes during his three years in Egypt, told AFP on Thursday he had been reporting on the march and that he did not intend to plan any demonstration.

“I think it’s very unclear. If I broke some law the logical response would have been to arrest me,” he said over the phone from Stockholm.

Randall, who wrote lifestyle stories for local publications, said he was told by the US embassy in Cairo that he was barred from Egypt and added that he had not planned to take part in further protests.

“I was planning nothing, I was just planning on coming home,” he said by phone from London.

The State Department advises US citizens to avoid protests in Egypt, where demonstrators are regularly arrested and detained, sometimes for months.

Hundreds of Egyptian protesters were arrested across the country during Israel’s devastating war with the Islamist Hamas rulers of Gaza in December and January.

Protesters called on Egypt, which blamed both Hamas and Israel for the war, to permanently open its Rafah border crossing with the impoverished Palestinian enclave, which has been blockaded since Hamas seized power there in 2007.

The larger protests were organised by the banned opposition group the Muslim Brotherhood, whose Palestinian branch gave rise to Hamas in the 1980s.

Egypt responded fiercely to critics of its Palestinian policies, arresting pro-Palestinian blogger Dia el-Din Gad in February.

Gad, who denounced the Egypt government on his blog and called President Hosni Mubarak “Ehud Mubarak,” in a reference to then Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, was released in March.

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BURIAL

Swedish archeologist finds ancient mass grave in Egypt

A Swedish archeologist has discovered a 3,000-year-old mass grave at the Gebel el-Silsila site in southern Egypt.

Swedish archeologist finds ancient mass grave in Egypt
John Ward and the team with one of the sarcophogi. Photo: Gebel El Silsila Project
Maria Nilsson, Researcher in Classical Archeology at Lund University, told Sweden’s TT newswire that although her group had so far dug through less than half of the grave site, they had already found a large number of human remains. 
 
“It’s just skeleton after skeleton after skeleton,” she said. “We haven’t yet finished the first chamber, but we have so far taken up 50 adults and 25 children.” 
 
Nilsson and her British husband John Ward, who is the project’s Assistant Director, announced the discovery in a video after it was announced by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquity on Thursday. 
 

 
The group discovered the shaft last year, but only realised its full significance when they started digging this October. The shaft was found five metres under ground and leads to two chambers, each filled with water, sand and sludge. 
 
View to the south-east of chamber 1. Photo: Gebel el Silsila Project
 
The grave is thought to date from Egypt’s 18th dynasty, making it around 3,400 years old. As well as bodies, the archeologists have found burial goods, such as scarabs, amulets, and different types of pots, coming from three generations of pharoahs: Thutmosis II, III och Amenhotep II.
 
Writing in her blog, Nilsson, said that no similar mass grave had been found as part of the dig. 
 
“No other tomb documented at Gebel el-Silsila previously has contained such a high number of entombed individuals,” she wrote.
 
“One of the more important results of the discovery at Gebel el-Silsila is the amount of buried children and women, indicating that there was a complete society with entire families living and working in ancient Kheny.”
 
 
Men-Kheper-Re scarab. Photo: Anders Andersson
 
“What we can see from the burial goods and the actual architecture of the tomb is that they belonged to the upper middle-class,” Nilsson said. “For various reasons, we believe that they were involved in quarry work.” 
 
The archeologists have several theories for why so many bodies were collected in the same place. 
 
Perhaps it was a kind of temporary morgue where Egypt’s priests kept bodies while waiting for grave sites to become available. Perhaps there had been an epidemic.   
 
In February Maria Nilsson and John Ward are returning to Sweden, and will be returning to the burial place next autumn. 
 
View from the shaft into chamber.  Photo: Anders Andersson
 
 
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