Muslim Brotherhood members held as Egypt declares group a terrorist organisation
At least 38 members arrested in Cairo on terrorism charges
Egyptian security officials inspect a bus damaged in a bombing in the Nasr City district of Cairo yesterday. Photograph: EPA/Khaled Elfiqi
At least 38 Muslim Brotherhood members were yesterday detained on terrorism charges as a homemade bomb exploded near a bus in the Nasr City district of Cairo, wounding five. Two other devices set to target police officers responding to the first were defused. The attack took place near the dormitories of al-Azhar university, the site of pro-Brotherhood student demonstrations.
In an address at a graduation ceremony for non-commissioned officers, army chief and defence minister Abdel Fattah el-Sisi vowed the state would confront “terrorism” and said people should have no fear.
The arrests took place 24 hours after the government proclaimed the 85-year-old Brotherhood a “terrorist organisation”. Five-year prison terms have been imposed on Egyptians joining the movement, taking part in protests or promoting the group verbally or in writing, interior ministry spokesman Hany Abdel Fattah declared. He said anyone found distributing Brotherhood publications or recordings will face a similar sentence. Publication of the Brotherhood newspaper, Freedom and Justice, has been suspended.
The threat of life imprisonment for people holding administrative positions with and funding the Brotherhood and affiliated bodies has, reportedly, prompted charities serving the poor to shut down and beneficiaries to shun them.
Since the Brotherhood has for decades provided schools, clinics and welfare assistance to hundreds of thousands of Egyptians, they could suffer grievously from withdrawal of these services.
On Wednesday, deputy prime minister Hossam el-Issa announced the Brotherhood had been pronounced a “terrorist” group following a bombing on Tuesday that killed 14 policemen and two civilians, and wounded at least 135 at the security directorate in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura.
This was the deadliest bombing to be carried out since mid-August, when the security forces forcibly dispersed two mass sit-ins in Cairo protesting the ousting of president Mohamed Morsi, a Brotherhood stalwart, six weeks earlier.
The government has accused the Brotherhood of the Mansoura incident, although the movement has denied involvement. The operation was claimed by al-Qaeda-linked Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, held to be responsible for bombings, shootings and kidnappings in northern Sinai and in Egypt proper.
Many Egyptians blame the Brotherhood for a climate of contention and confrontation, and attacks on security facilities. At least 100 policemen and 1,000 civilians have died, most Brotherhood-backers, over the past 4½ months.
Speaking from exile in London, Brotherhood executive council member Ibrahim Munir said the movement would continue its protests and proclaimed the government’s action “illegitimate”.
Groups supporting the military-backed interim government, which assumed power after the fall of Mr Morsi, applauded the decision to declare the Brotherhood a “terrorist” organisation. Tamarod (Rebel), which orchestrated the June 30th countrywide mass action to bring down Mr Morsi, praised the move and urged Egyptians to assert their support for the roadmap for the transitional period by turning out for the January referendum and approve the new constitution, to be followed by parliamentary and presidential elections.
Threat to Egypt
The liberal Social Democratic party, Free Democrats, and Wafd welcomed the government’s move but prominent fundamentalist factions opposed it. The Gamaa al-Islamiya, a former terrorist organisation, called the decision “unjust” and warned it could “affect the social, political, economic and security situation in the country.”
Ultraconservative Salafi Nour party spokesman Salah Abdel-Maboud said talking to the Brotherhood was preferable to forcing it underground.