Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood defied threats of a further crackdown on protests, urging supporters of ousted President Mohamed Mursi to march on security installations today.
The call followed the killing of dozens of the deposed president’s supporters by security forces over the weekend. The military, which toppled Mursi on July 3 after nationwide demonstrations against him, dropped leaflets on Islamist protesters telling them to keep away from the installations and “help us maintain your safety.”
The planned rallies threaten to escalate a conflict that has left dozens, mostly Brotherhood supporters, dead since Mursi’s overthrow, undermining offers for reconciliation by the government. The U.S. has called for restraint and a top European Union official is holding talks with both sides in Cairo today.
Egypt’s army-backed government accuses the Brotherhood of inciting violence to portray itself as a victim. The Islamist group says Mursi’s removal was a coup against an elected leader, and has vowed to maintain protests until he is restored.
The main Egyptian stock index fell for a fourth day, dropping 0.6 percent at the close in Cairo. The country’s benchmark Eurobonds due in 2020 also declined, pushing yields up 10 basis points to 8.7 percent.
Helicopters showered the main pro-Mursi sit-in in Cairo’s Nasr City district with pamphlets. “Someone is pushing for chaos to become the law of the streets,” the documents read, according to the state-run Middle East News Agency. “We urge you not to approach a military installation or unit,” they said. “Don’t let anyone push you toward violence or sabotage.”
‘Strength and Decisiveness’
The Interior Ministry also warned against attacks on state buildings. “Security bodies will confront such attempts with all strength and decisiveness,” it said in a statement today.
The ministry said it received information that some Brotherhood supporters were planning to storm a conference hall near their main sit-in. Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim has said the protest will be dispersed “very soon.”
The weekend violence followed demonstrations by hundreds of thousands in support of army leader Abdelfatah al-Seesi’s call for solidarity with the military, as well as counter-rallies by Mursi loyalists. There were violent clashes in Alexandria as well as Cairo, where 80 people died according to official figures, in the deadliest incident since Mursi’s overthrow.
Shot in Head
The mounting toll has sparked concerns internationally. Human Rights Watch said on July 28 that many of those killed appeared to have been shot in the head or the chest.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton met al-Seesi and other Egyptian officials in Cairo today, and is also due to hold talks with representatives of the pro-Mursi camp. Ashton said she’ll call for a “fully inclusive transition process, taking in all political groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Secretary of State John Kerry has called on Egyptian authorities to respect the right to peaceful protest. The U.S. has had close ties with Egypt’s army for three decades and provides it with about $1.3 billion a year in aid. Last week, the Pentagon said it’s delaying the delivery of four F-16 fighter planes.
Authorities have moved against the Brotherhood and other Islamist groups, issuing arrest warrants for leaders and freezing assets. Essam Sultan and Abul-Ela Madi of the Islamist Wasat Party were arrested in the latest crackdown, the state-run Ahram Gate website reported.
The military has also pledged to step up operations against militants in the Sinai peninsula, where attacks on security forces have escalated since Mursi’s fall. Ten “terrorist armed elements” have been killed over the weekend and 20 people arrested, MENA said, citing an unidentified official.