Egyptian crackdown on pro-Morsi sit-ins expected

Operation to begin clearing Muslim Brotherhood encampments could begin today

People gather at a tent during a sit-in near the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque in the Nasr City neighborhood of Cairo. Photograph: Narciso Contreras/The New York Times

People gather at a tent during a sit-in near the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque in the Nasr City neighborhood of Cairo. Photograph: Narciso Contreras/The New York Times

Mon, Aug 12, 2013, 06:24

Muslim Brotherhood leaders of the large encampment at Cairo’s Nasr City yesterday declared a state of emergency and reinforced barricades, expecting action by security forces to disband the protest against the ousting of Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi.

The Brotherhood has warned it would retaliate against efforts to end the sit-ins by moving on Tahrir Square, where anti-Morsi rallies take place.

Security forces deployed armoured vehicles in streets around the Rabaa al-Adawiya camp in Nasr City as well as the smaller site at al-Nahda Square near Cairo University in Giza as Brotherhood supporters staged marches in the streets of the capital.

The operation to begin clearing the encampments could commence as early as this morning.

Gradual implementation
Although a crackdown on the encampments, which contain thousands of people, has been threatened, pan-Arab newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat reported that the authorities had ruled out frontal assaults that would risk killing hundreds, particularly women and children, who number about half of those involved. Some 250 people have died in violence since Mr Morsi was ousted on July 3rd.

The plan, to be gradually implemented, said the paper, was to prevent people from entering the sit-ins and those who leave from returning. Electricity, water and food supplies would be cut and tear gas and water cannon could be used. The operation could take “weeks or months”, an unidentified source told the daily. A deadline of three months has been set.

While the plan is being implemented, the source said that “there will be safe corridors [defined] in co-operation with human rights organisations to allow civilians free movement” out of the sites.

Invitation rejected
The Brotherhood has rejected an invitation from the most senior Sunni cleric in the Muslim world, Sheikh al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayyeb, who intends to begin contacts today with the aim of launching a national dialogue this week. The Brotherhood regards him as an antagonist since he supported the ousting of Mr Morsi.

“Al-Azhar has been studying all the proposals for reconciliation put forward by political and intellectual figures . . . to come up with a compromise formula [to suit] all Egyptians,” said Mahmoud Azab, Sheikh Tayyeb’s aide.

In restive Sinai, the army has carried out rocket strikes against fundamentalist militants who killed 16 soldiers last August and abducted seven soldiers in May. Between 15 and 17 jihadis have been killed, according to army spokesman Ahmed Ali.

“These terrorist groups were planning to commit crimes against members of the armed forces, the police and . . . the people of Sinai,” he said.