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Egypt buys 2 warships from France, 2nd big military purchase

PARIS — Egypt has agreed to buy two Mistral-class warships from France, the French government said Wednesday, announcing its second military sale to the economically-strapped country this year.

The assault ships, which can each carry 16 helicopter gunships, 700 troops and up to 50 armored vehicles, were originally intended for Russia. France continued building to Russia’s specifications — including stenciling Cyrillic writing throughout the vessels –until the deal finally fell apart because of the Ukrainian crisis. It was originally supposed to be the biggest arms sale ever by a NATO country to Russia.

France agreed to refund 950 million euros ($1 billion) already paid by Russia. France didn’t say how much Egypt agreed to pay, but denied losing money.

Egypt also purchased 24 advanced fighter jets from France earlier this year for nearly $6 billion, as it sought international help to bomb Islamic State targets.

The Egyptian government has been battling a long-running insurgency in the northern Sinai region, which escalated after the military ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July 2013 amid massive protests against his rule and cracked down on Islamic groups. A local Islamic State affiliate has been claiming responsibility for militant attacks in the area.

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