Egypt’s interior minister, speaking after dozens of people died in protests, said security forces are determined to bring about stability, a veiled warning to Islamists who want President Mohamed Mursi reinstated.
Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim’s comments signaled impatience with demonstrations that have roiled the country since the military deposed Mursi on July 3 after mass rallies seeking his ouster. The pro-Mursi protests have led to fatal clashes, undercutting hopes for national reconciliation.
“The police are determined to achieve security and stability for the country, and are capable of doing so,” Ibrahim said in a televised speech yesterday at a cadet graduation ceremony. “We will vigorously and decisively confront any attempt to undermine security.”
At least 72 people were killed in weekend clashes near a pro-Mursi protest in Cairo, the Health Ministry said, the highest toll in a single incident since his ouster. Eight others died in violence in Alexandria, it said. Unrest flared again since, with one person killed in fighting between Brotherhood supporters and “residents” in Port Said, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported yesterday. Similar violence left another person -- a Brotherhood supporter -- dead in Egypt’s Kafr el-Zayyat during the funeral of one of those who died in the Cairo unrest, it said.
Ibrahim said on July 27 the government planned to act “very soon” to disperse the Brotherhood encampment in Cairo’s Rabaa El-Adawiya square, the center of the pro-Mursi protests.
He said the Brotherhood inflated the death toll and incited unrest to undermine the interim government that is to guide Egypt through elections early next year.
The Brotherhood, which says the military carried out a coup against an elected leader, has rejected the transitional military-backed government.
“We stand 4 democracy & against military coup,” Gehad El-Haddad, a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman, wrote on Twitter. Egyptians can either stand with “us or remain passive” and wait for more deaths, the posting said. He didn’t respond to a phone call seeking comment.
The military has said it would use new tactics against violence and terrorism, without providing details. Security operations in the restive Sinai peninsula left 10 “terrorist armed elements” killed in the past 48 hours, MENA said, citing an unidentified security official. Authorities also arrested 20 “terrorist elements,” it said.
Pointing to recent attacks on security forces in Sinai and other violence, Moustafa Hegazy, an adviser to the interim president, said the state will work to protect Egyptians in accordance with the law and human rights, according to MENA. The new leadership is pushing forward with implementing the road map for transitioning from Mursi’s rule, MENA cited him as saying.
He accused pro-Mursi protesters of trying to turn themselves into “victims” to bolster their position in negotiations, it reported. Those responsible for bloodshed will be held accountable, MENA cited him as saying.
The weekend violence followed dueling protests by hundreds of thousands of Egyptians who heeded Defense Minister Abdelfatah al-Seesi’s call to rally in solidarity with the military and by tens of thousands of Mursi loyalists who demanded his reinstatement.
The Brotherhood said it would continue the protests, dubbing they July 27 violence a “massacre” and “crimes against humanity.”
Police said they only used tear gas and that Brotherhood supporters caused the clashes by trying to block a major bridge. The Islamist group said protesters spilled over because the square was full, and that uniformed police and “thugs” operated side-by-side and opened fire on the crowds.
“We should make it clear in Egypt, as we made it clear in Libya and in Syria, that firing on your own people is unacceptable by any government,” U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the chamber’s second-ranking Democrat, said yesterday on ABC’s “This Week.”
“In this situation, if it’s established that this came from government sources -- it appears it did -- then we’ve got to make it clear to the Egyptians that’s unacceptable conduct,” said Durbin, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who was scheduled to a visit to Egypt late yesterday, is expected to meet the country’s interim president, vice president, defense minister as well representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm, according to MENA. Hegazy said her visit is not a mediating mission, MENA reported.
Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel peace laureate who serves as Egypt’s vice president in the interim government, denounced the “excessive use of force” in a Twitter post and said he was working to end the confrontation peacefully.
Despite the high toll, “it probably wouldn’t be smart for the Brotherhood, from an organizational standpoint, to suspend protests because it is very clear what happens afterward,” said Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center, which conducts policy analysis and research on the Middle East. “The military would make its move and dismantle the organization.”
During Mursi’s administration, critics accused the Brotherhood of seeking to cement its power at the expense of the nation’s welfare. Since he was deposed, authorities have cracked down on Islamists with arrest warrants and asset freezes.
The military has been holding Mursi since his ouster. On July 26, an investigative judge formally ordered him detained for 15 days on suspicion he conspired with the Palestinian militant group Hamas in murders, abductions, jailbreaks and other attacks on security facilities, MENA reported.
Hegazy, the presidential adviser, said not announcing where Mursi is held may be to protect national interests or “his security and life,” according to MENA
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