Egypt Police General Killed as al-Seesi Weighs Presidency

Gunmen killed a senior Egyptian police official a day after the military endorsed a possible presidential run by Defense Minister Abdelfatah al-Seesi.

Assailants on a motorcycle shot Major General Mohamed al-Saeed, director of the Interior Ministry’s technical office, said Ahmed Dawoud, an officer at the Giza investigations unit. A day earlier, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces said that the public wants al-Seesi, who hasn’t announced his plans, to run for election and it’s up to him to “shoulder the responsibility.”

The assassination spotlights the security woes that have fueled calls for al-Seesi, who ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in July, to run for the top job. His critics accuse him of leading the bloodiest crackdown against Islamists in decades since Mursi’s ouster, and say the country is turning back into a police state. Mursi went on trial today in the second of four criminal cases against him.

“Al-Seesi has a strong support base pushing for him to run,” said Islam Al Tayeb, a research analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. “And if he runs, he will highly likely win.”

Militant Insurgency

Candidate registrations for the presidential vote are expected to open on Feb. 18, the state-run Middle East News Agency said.

Calls for al-Seesi to run are gaining momentum even as he struggles to contain a wave of deadly bomb attacks that have spread from the Sinai Peninsula to urban centers including Cairo. The violence revived memories of a militant insurgency in the 1990s that targeted police, government officials and tourists.

A policeman guarding a church near Cairo was also shot dead today, police official Hossam Fawzy said. A homemade explosive device was discovered and dismantled near a courthouse in a Cairo district, said Major General Gamal Halawa of the civil defense force. Pro-Mursi protesters blocked off a road and clashed with security forces in the same area.

“If we’re looking for stability, then definitely al-Seesi is not the right person,” said Magdi Qarqar, a member of the main pro-Mursi coalition. “Many people in this country consider him responsible for the killing of many,” he said, referring to the deaths of hundreds of Brotherhood supporters protesting against the army intervention.

‘Who Are You?’

Mursi appeared in court today, along with other Brotherhood leaders, on charges of involvement in prison breaks during the 2011 uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak. Mursi had been in jail at the time, and was among those freed. The case was adjourned to Feb. 22.

Dressed in white prison garb, Mursi was kept in a glass enclosure in the defendants’ cage when he appeared in court today, prompting objections from the defense team.

He angrily addressed the judge, yelling: “I am the president of the republic. Who are you?” At the beginning of the hearing, the other defendants turned their backs to the panel of judges, and later chanted: “Down, down with military rule.”

Successive regimes have failed to restore security to Egypt since Mubarak was pushed from power. The goal eluded the army council that took over, as well as Mursi, whose one-year rule saw a growing polarization between secularists and Islamists. Since his overthrow, the military-backed government has faced regular protests and a surge in militant attacks.

Only Al-Seesi

“What’s in charge of Egypt is the army, the interior ministry, intelligence services, judiciary, media and bureaucracy,” said Ziad Akl, a senior researcher at the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. “There’s no one except Abdelfatah al-Seesi who can control all these different institutions.”

The April 6 youth movement, which played a role in the uprising against Mubarak and opposed Mursi during his presidency, won’t support al-Seesi or any other candidate with a similar background because “we emerged from the Jan. 25, 2011, revolution calling for a civilian, democratic state,” Khaled El-Masry, a member of the group’s political office, said in an e-mailed statement.

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