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File photo shows former presidential candidate Ahmed Shafik as he arrives at a news conference in Cairo, Egypt, June 10, 2012. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh/File Photo

(reuters_tickers)

By Amina Ismail

CAIRO (Reuters) - Former Egyptian prime minister Ahmed Shafik, who last week announced plans to run for the presidency, was deported from the United Arab Emirates on Saturday, his family said, and arrived in Cairo hours later.

Shafik, a former air force commander and government minister, was seen as the strongest potential opponent of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is expected to run a second term next year.

With airport security high, Shafik landed in a private plane in Cairo airport on Saturday evening, the airport sources said.

A Reuters witness at the airport said Egyptian authorities escorted Shafik in a motorcade that was waiting for him outside the airport.

UAE news agency WAM said Shafik left the Emirates, an ally of Sisi's government, for Egypt without giving any details on why or how he departed. It said his family had remained behind in the Emirates.

Shafik's daughter May Shafik, told Reuters that authorities had come for him at his home and sent him to Cairo.

"We were about to leave to travel to France. They came and took him. They deported him in a private plane. They said they will deport him to Egypt," May said.

"Just because he announced he will run for president they deported him to Egypt and I don't know what will they do to him," she said.

A Gulf source familiar with the matter said earlier: "Shafik has publicly asked to go to Egypt and his wish will be met."

Shafik's lawyer on her Facebook page also said he had been taken from the family home.

UAE AN ALLY OF SISI

A spokesman for Egypt's foreign ministry did not immediately answer a call seeking details. But an Egyptian judicial source said Shafik was not wanted in any criminal cases at the moment, but he had several cases, including for corruption, against him in the past that either ended in acquittal or were dropped.

"We have no information about a deportation order," the judicial source said.

Shafik said on Wednesday he would run for president in a surprise announcement from the UAE, where he has been based.

Several other low-profile candidates have said they will run.

Shafik narrowly lost to Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt's 2012 election before fleeing overseas.

May Shafik said on Friday he was preparing to depart, first for Europe and the United States before returning to Egypt to start his campaign.

She said Shafik had been prevented from leaving the UAE in previous days but had then received assurances that he could travel freely. She did not specify who gave the assurances. The UAE denied placing movement restrictions on Shafik.

The UAE, an ally of Sisi, has been officially silent on Shafik's candidacy announcement.

Sisi as a military commander led the ousting of former president Mursi in 2013, before his own landslide election a year later. Sisi's supporters see him as key to stability following the upheaval that followed the 2011 Egyptian revolt that toppled president Hosni Mubarak.

But his government is fighting a stubborn Islamist militant insurgency in the Sinai region and has also enacted painful austerity reforms over the last year to revive the economy but that critics say have dented his popularity.

(Reporting by Amina Ismail, additional reporting by Ahmed Mohamed Hassan, Abdel Nasser Aboul Fadl and Ali Abdelaty.; editing by Patrick Markey and Richard Balmforth)

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Reuters