Aug. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Egyptian security forces stormed and cleared a mosque in central Cairo where supporters of ousted President Mohamed Mursi were holed up as the government said it’s considering dissolving the Muslim Brotherhood.
Police and troops fired tear gas into the landmark Fath Mosque in Ramsis Square, where hundreds of anti-government demonstrators had been besieged since yesterday, in scenes televised live by Al Jazeera. Forces were also shown firing at gunmen atop one of the mosque’s minarets. The mosque was cleared of protesters by about 8 p.m., according to a police official.
The crackdown against the country’s main Islamist group is the latest in a four-day campaign that has killed at least 800 people, including 173 since yesterday, and injured thousands, according to the Health Ministry. Among the dead is Ammar Badie, the son of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, the group’s political arm said in a statement.
“We’re re-entering a period where the Brotherhood will be returned to pariah status, which will likely reflect on other Islamist groups,” Ziad Akl, senior researcher at the Cairo-based Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said by phone. Some groups “will work within the framework of the state while others will turn into resistance movements.”
The military-backed government said today it would seek a “legal framework” to break up the Brotherhood, the organization started in the 1920s and from which Mursi hails.
Presidential adviser Moustafa Hegazy later said in a televised press conference that Egypt seeks to have all organizations, including the Brotherhood, operating under a legal framework.
Police moved Aug. 14 to break up two Cairo sit-ins by pro-Mursi supporters who have been demanding his reinstatement since the military deposed him last month. Prime Minister Hazem El Beblawi’s office said today his government will “strike with an iron fist” at those it deems are instigating violence, according to an e-mailed statement. Both sides blame each other for Egypt’s worst violence since the January 2011 uprising that ended former President Hosni Mubarak’s three decades of rule.
Police have arrested more than 1,000 Brotherhood supporters. Mohammed Al-Zawahiri, the brother of al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri, was also arrested, Nile News reported.
The Brotherhood called for protests tomorrow in front of the Supreme Constitutional Court in Cairo, according to an e-mailed statement by the National Coalition for Legitimacy. That group is made up of the Brotherhood and its Islamist supporters.
Mursi, the country’s first freely elected leader, was removed by the military last month after mass demonstrations during the first anniversary of him taking office. He’s been detained pending investigations into charges that include sharing intelligence with Hamas and other foreign organizations. The opposition movement against his rule gained momentum this year on claims he worked to consolidate power for the Brotherhood, polarizing the nation, and failed to improve the economy.
Dozens of churches have been burned and police stations attacked, which the government and its Islamist opponents blame on each other.
“Chaos is their doctrine and the highest of their hopes in order to pass their oppression, strengthen their hold and distort Egyptians’ rightful case for a secure Egypt away from the thieves, the corrupt and killers of the public,” Ahmed Aref, a Brotherhood spokesman, said in a statement today on the Facebook page of the group’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party. His phone was switched off when Bloomberg called seeking comment.
The stock exchange will reopen tomorrow for a trading session shortened to three hours from four, according to an e-mailed statement from the Egyptian Exchange. The bourse and banks closed on Aug. 15 amid the violence.
The price of the government’s benchmark 5.75-percent eurobonds due in 2020 tumbled the most in 14 months over the last three days, sending the yield up 85 basis points, or 0.85 of a percentage point, to 9.18 percent yesterday. Five-year credit-default swaps, contracts which insure the nation’s debt against non-payment, were quoted at 810 basis points according to data provider CMA, the highest in more than a month. That ranks Egypt among the 10 riskiest nations in the world.
President Barack Obama said on Aug. 15 he called off a joint U.S. military exercise with Egypt scheduled to begin next month and warned that Egypt’s military-backed government has embarked on a “dangerous path.” He stopped short of cutting off the $1.3 billion in aid that the U.S. provides to the Egyptian army, its decades-old ally.
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