Egypt Violence Spreads as Security Forces Attacked

A shooting and separate explosion targeting Egyptian security forces left at least nine dead a day after 51 people were killed in police clashes with Islamists that fueled the turmoil threatening the nation’s political transition.

Five soldiers and one officer were killed when gunmen opened fire on them near the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya, according to Moustafa Younes, a police officer in the province. Three policemen were killed in a blast outside a security installation in Southern Sinai, the Interior Ministry said. Mohamed Darwish, an officer at provincial security directorate, described it as a car bomb.

“What we are witnessing is part of a very long process of confrontation that will continue to be violent until a decisive event happens,” either in the form of reconciliation or a harsher military crackdown, said Ziad Akl, a senior researcher at the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo.

The eruption of violence underscores the difficulty of restoring security three months after the ouster of former President Mohamed Mursi and the worst crackdown in decades on the Muslim Brotherhood which fielded him for office.

The Brotherhood used rallies yesterday to mark the anniversary of the 1973 war with Israel to push back against the clampdown and reinvigorate the protest movement. The bloodshed is undermining efforts to revive a battered economy, leaving the most populous Arab country largely dependent on aid from Gulf states to stem a decline in foreign reserves.

‘Brute Force’

“If you keep on having clashes that kill over 50, then the economy is not going to fully recover,” said Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar. “That’s the main bargaining chip that the Brotherhood and their allies have: They can essentially undermine Egypt’s economic recovery if they continue to protest and security forces respond with brute force.”

The country’s benchmark stock index closed at its highest level in eight months as investors shrugged off the deadly clashes. The EGX 30 Index gained 0.7 percent to 5,765.87, the strongest since Feb. 5, at the 2:30 p.m. close in Cairo.

The government has announced a stimulus package of about 22 billion Egyptian pounds to spur economic growth stuck at about 2 percent since 2011. That compares with 6.2 percent average annual growth in the previous five years.

Civil War Concerns

Also today unknown assailants fired at the country’s satellite station in Cairo’s Maadi suburb, hitting a dish while not affecting the station’s performance, the Interior Ministry said.

Defense Minister Abdelfatah al-Seesi told Al Masry Al Youm newspaper the army intervened in the ousting of Mursi on July 3 after protests against the Islamist leader in order to prevent a civil war.

“If we had reached the stage of civil fighting or civil war, the army wouldn’t have been able to stand against it or prevent its consequences,” al-Seesi said in comments published today.

The military has been waging a battle against what it describes as “terrorists” in Sinai, with officials worried the violence there could breed an insurgency in other parts of the country.

Political Arm

At least 375 people were injured in yesterday’s fighting, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported, citing Health Ministry official Khalid al-Khatib. Many of those killed were in Cairo and Giza, both the sites of pro-Mursi sit-ins that were broken up by security forces in August leaving hundreds killed.

A judicial body today recommended disbanding the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, state-run Ahram Gate reported.

In the face of a wave of arrests, prosecutions and asset-freezes that has weakened its leadership, the Brotherhood and its allies continue to call for street protests to reverse what they say is the “coup” that unseated Mursi.

“While the putschists hold festive celebrations for a faction of this nation, in which they promise to dance over the dead bodies of their fellow citizens who oppose the coup, they send their forces to kill, maim, arrest and detain peaceful Egyptians,” the main alliance backing Mursi said in a statement. “This revolution will not be repressed or derailed by the heinous killings.”

The group called for demonstrations throughout the week, including a protest on Friday in Tahrir Square, the iconic plaza of the 2011 revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak, in a move that could lead to new clashes.