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Dozens dead as Egypt marks revolution – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Dozens dead as Egypt marks revolution – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

Cairo  At least 29 people have been killed across Egypt amidst nationwide protests on the third anniversary of the 2011 revolution, with unofficial reports of a death toll nearly twice as high.

The worst violence was directed at supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi, who staged dozens of rallies across the country. Witnesses reported deadly clashes in Minya, Giza, Alexandria and several other governorates, and the health ministry said that 29 people were dead and more than 170 wounded by 8:30pm (1830GMT).

There were reports of numerous deaths in Alf Maskan, a neighbourhood in eastern Cairo, though the exact number could not be confirmed. Two witnesses in the area took photos that seemed to show at least nine dead bodies wrapped in shrouds.

The Muslim Brotherhood said in a statement that more than 50 people have been killed nationwide, though casualty figures released by the group have often been exaggerated in the past.

Armed groups also staged three attacks on security forces, the most spectacular of which reportedly brought down a military helicopter in North Sinai.

Two explosions rocked Cairo early on Saturday and a third followed in Suez, targeting a police base.

Activists opposed to both the army and the Brotherhood also tried to lay claim to the streets, with a rally in the Mohandiseen district around noon. They were chased off, only to regroup several hours later downtown, blocks away from Tahrir, where security forces fired tear gas and live ammunition.

The April 6 youth movement said one of its members was killed by gunfire, and by mid-afternoon the violence had prompted several revolutionary groups to urge supporters to go home.

But the main pro-military event in Tahrir Square was peaceful, protected by a heavy deployment of soldiers and police. The crowds gathered in the square made little mention of the 2011 uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak.

Instead they came to celebrate General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi who deposed morsi in July.

‘We refuse to submit’

Army helicopters orbited overhead, dropping Egyptian flags and coupons for free blankets. Crowds arrived throughout the afternoon, many of them chanting “the people demand the execution of the Brotherhood.” Others called for the “affirmation of the regime,” a play on the revolutionary slogan calling for its downfall.

“We want to show that we won’t go back to the Brotherhood, and we won’t be scared by their terrorism,” said Mohamed Salama, entering Tahrir Square with a group of about 20 people. “This is about correcting the path of the revolution.”

For many, the next step on that path should be electing Sisi to the presidency.

“Look around, he has our support. If he does not run, who will?” asked Amer Ali Said, an engineer.

Analysts say it is still unclear whether the general will run, though today’s rallies certainly seem to push him in that direction.

Thousands of Sisi’s supporters also gathered in other sites across the capital, and in governorates outside of Cairo. State television showed large crowds in Alexandria, Sohag, Fayoum and other cities. “We aren’t scared. All the people of Port Said, of Egypt, we are down in the streets today,” one man from Port Said told a state television reporter.

Sinai attack

Local media reported that an army helicopter was shot down near the town of Sheikh Zuweid in North Sinai, possibly by a missile. A military spokesman confirmed the helicopter crash, but would not comment on the cause.

The interior ministry confirmed a bombing outside a security barracks in Suez, which injured at least nine people. And a small explosion at a police building in eastern Cairo around 8am injured one person.

There were no claims of responsibility for Saturday’s attacks, which followed a series of four bombings across the capital on Friday. The deadliest, a car bomb, tore through the security directorate downtown, killing four people and injuring more than 70. Prosecutors said on Saturday that the vehicle used in the bombing had been stolen from the electricity ministry.

Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, a Sinai-based armed group, claimed responsibility for all four.

Several dead as Egypt protests turn violent – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Several dead as Egypt protests turn violent – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

At least 11 people have been killed as Muslim Brotherhood supporters clashed with police in Cairo and other Egyptian cities, the country’s Health Ministry has said.

The ministry told Al Jazeera that four deaths were recorded in Cairo on Friday, two each in Alexandria, Ismaliya and Fayoum, and one in Minya in upper Egypt. Protesters said the real figure was much higher.

The ministry did not say whether the dead were protesters, police or bystanders.

Dozens more were reported injured, while at least 122 people have been arrested, according to medical and security officials.

Spotlight

Follow our ongoing coverage of the political crisis in Egypt

 

The clashes come amid an ever-widening state crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood movement.

Rallies in support of ousted President Mohamed Morsi have turned increasingly violent ahead of a key referendum this month, which would ban religiously based political parties and give more power to the military.

It would be a further step towards the complete removal of the Brotherhood from public life after the group won every election in Egypt since Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in 2011.

‘We are not afraid’

Protesters set fire to a police vehicle in Cairo using petrol bombs as police fought street battles with rock-throwing protesters in the capital.

“We are not afraid, we love Egypt and what we are doing is for Egypt,” said Mohamed Dahi, a 39-year-old protester, as he distributed leaflets calling for a boycott of the referendum.
“I am against all injustice and the military rule. I won’t accept any military rule in Egypt,” Dahi told the AFP news agency
I won’t accept any military rule in Egypt.

Mohamed Dahi, protester

as as he participated in a protest along with his 10-year-old son.

Demonstrators chanted “Down with military rule” and slogans against army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who removed Morsi from the presidency in July.

Cairo’s main squares were sealed off by security forces using barbed wire and military vehicles. They included Tahrir Square, as well as Rabaa al-Adawiya and Nahda squares, which were the sites of a bloody crackdown on Morsi’s supporters in August.

The clashes took place less than two weeks before a vote on a new constitution, a milestone in the road map which the army-backed authorities say will pave the way for a return to a democratic rule by next summer.

Protesters opposed to the army’s overthrow of Morsi have been holding daily demonstrations in Cairo and in other cities ever since the military government declared the Muslim Brotherhood a “terrorist” group last month, a move that upped the penalties for dissent.

Dozens of Iraqi MPs quit over Anbar violence – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Dozens of Iraqi MPs quit over Anbar violence – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

Forty-four Iraqi MPs have announced their resignation over violence in Anbar province, just days after a deadly raid on the home of a Sunni lawmaker in the area.Fighting erupted when police broke up a Sunni Muslim protest camp on Monday, leaving at least 13 people dead, police and medical sources said.

Four people died on Tuesday in clashes between Iraq’s security forces and gunmen in Ramadi, following the forced closure of the site.

The camp has been an irritant to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shia-led government since protesters set it up a year ago to demonstrate against what they see as marginalisation of their sect.

Maliki has repeatedly vowed to remove the camp and accused protesters of stirring strife and sheltering fighters linked to al-Qaeda.

The MPs who stepped down after the latest bout of violence demanded “the withdrawal of the army… and the release of MP Ahmed al-Alwani,” a Sunni of the Iraqiya bloc who was arrested during a deadly raid on Saturday.

Prominent Sunni politician Saleh al-Mutlaq called for all legislators from Iraqiya to withdraw from the political process, saying it had hit a “dead end”.

“Elections in this atmosphere would be settled in advance, therefore we should raise our voices high and say the political process cannot proceed in this way,” he told reporters.

Tension rising

Tensions have been rising over the past few weeks in Anbar, a province that makes up a third of Iraq’s territory and is populated mainly by Sunnis.

Police said the clashes on Monday broke out when armed men opened fire on police special forces trying to enter Ramadi, the city where the protest camp is located.
We hold the government of Nouri al-Maliki responsible for the bloodshed and the fighting.Mahmoud Abdel Aziz, tribal leader

Shooting and blasts were heard in parts of the city. The assailants destroyed four police vehicles and killed at least three policemen in the north of Ramadi, one police source said.

The bodies of 10 other people killed in the clashes were brought into Ramadi’s morgue, hospital and morgue sources told Reuters news agency.

Tribal leader Mahmoud Abdel Aziz, meanwhile, accused the army of firing on unarmed civilians.

“We hold the government of Nouri al-Maliki responsible for the bloodshed and the fighting,” he said.

The fighting spread to the nearby city of Fallujah, where police Captain Omar Oda said armed men burned military vehicles during clashes with security forces.

Maliki’s spokesman, Ali Mussawi, said military sources confirmed that tents at the protest site had been removed and the highway towards neighbouring Jordan and Syria reopened.

This was done “without any losses, after al-Qaeda and its members escaped from the camp to the city, and they are being pursued now,” Mussawi told AFP.

The sprawling protest site on the highway outside Ramadi, where the number of protesters ranged from hundreds to thousands, included a stage from which speakers could address crowds, a large roofed structure and dozens of tents.

Sunni politicians arrested

Protests broke out in Sunni Arab-majority areas of Iraq late last year after the arrest of guards of then-finance minister Rafa al-Essawi, an influential Sunni Arab, on terrorism charges.

The arrests were seen by Sunnis as yet another example of the Shia-led government targeting one of their leaders.

In December 2011, guards of vice president Tariq al-Hashemi, another prominent Sunni politician, were arrested and accused of terrorism. Hashemi fled abroad and has since been given multiple death sentences in absentia for charges including murder.

He had insisted he was still the legitimate vice president, but on Monday he announced his resignation and called on all Sunni members of parliament join him.

“Legally I was still the vice president of the republic. But today I add my voice to my people who have risen up in Anbar,” he told Al Jazeera.

“I stayed in this position until now because it was necessary to challenge and unite the Sunnis. They needed a rallying cause. But enough is enough.”

 

US names six drone research sites – Americas – Al Jazeera English

US names six drone research sites – Americas – Al Jazeera English.

FAA does not currently allow commercial use of drones, but it is working to develop guidelines by 2015 [AFP]
The US has named six states that will develop test sites for drones, a critical next step for the move of the unmanned aircraft into domestic skies.The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not currently allow commercial use of drones, but it is working to develop operational guidelines by the end of 2015, although officials concede the project may take longer than expected.

Drones have been mainly used by the military, but governments, businesses, farmers and others are making plans to join the market.

Many universities are starting or expanding drone programmes.

Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia will host the research sites, providing diverse climates, geography and air-traffic environments, Michael Huerta, the FAA administrator, said on Monday.

At least one of the six sites will be up and running within 180 days, while the others are expected to come online in quick succession, Huerta said.

The growing US drone industry has critics among both conservatives and liberals.

Giving drones greater access to US skies moves the nation closer to “a surveillance society in which our every move is monitored, tracked, recorded and scrutinised by the authorities”, the American Civil Liberties Union declared in a report last December.

Huerta said his agency is sensitive to privacy concerns involving drones. Test sites must have a written plan for data use and retention and will be required to conduct an annual review of privacy practices that involves public comment.

While selecting the sites, the FAA considered geography, climate, ground infrastructure, research needs, airspace use, aviation experience and risk. New York’s site will look into integrating drones into the congested northeast US airspace.

Nevada offered proximity to military aircraft from several bases.

In choosing Alaska, the FAA cited a diverse set of locations in seven climatic zones.

“These test sites will give us valuable information about how best to ensure the safe introduction of this advanced technology into our nation’s skies,” Anthony Foxx, US transportation secretary, said in a statement.

 

Al Jazeera demands Egypt release Cairo team – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Al Jazeera demands Egypt release Cairo team – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

Conditions for journalists have become difficult since President Morsi’s overthrow in July, rights groups say
Al Jazeera has condemned the arrest of four of its journalists held by Egyptian authorities since Sunday night and demanded their immediate release.

Award-winning Nairobi-based correspondent Peter Greste, Al Jazeera English bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy, Cairo-based producer Baher Mohamed and cameraman Mohamed Fawzyre have been held in custody since their arrest by security forces on Sunday evening.

Al Jazeera under fire in Egypt in 2013
 
June 28
AJMM’s Mohammad Farhat beaten by gangs, spending
two weeks in intensive care.

July 3

AJA crew were detained inside AJA bureau for six hours.
Ahmad Hassan was detained for four days.

July 12

Five AJE crew members were detained in Suez for a
few hours.

July 15
AJMM’s Mohammad Bader arrested and in custody for 15
days. He was detained until mid September.

August 14

AJA’s Abdulla al-Shami arrested for 15 days, then on
August 27 he was detained for further a 12 days.
Mohammad el-Zaki shot by snipers at
Rabaa al-Adaweya.

August 27

AJE’s Baher Mohammed detained and released after two
days. Wayne Hay, Adil Bradlow and Russ Finn detained
for five days and deported to UK.

August 14

AJMM crew detained and beaten for hours and equipment
confiscated.

August 29

Shihab El-Din, AJM exec producer, detained for two days.

September 1
Mostafa Hawwa detained for one day and equipment
confiscated.

The arrests follow a period of sustained intimidation towards Al Jazeera staff, property and coverage since the military-orchestrated removal of President Mohamed Morsi in July.

Qatar-based Al Jazeera Media Network’s spokesperson said of the latest arrests: “We condemn the arbitrary arrest of Al Jazeera English journalists working in Cairo and demand their immediate and unconditional release.

“Al Jazeera Media Network has been subject to harassment by Egyptian security forces which has arrested of our colleagues, confiscated our equipment and raided our offices despite that we are not officially banned from working there.”

These arrests are part of what Reporters Without Borders has called growing hostility towards journalists in Egypt.

There has also been a campaign against Al Jazeera in particular as the channel’s offices were raided in August and security forces seized equipment which has yet to be returned.

Al Jazeera called on the Egyptian authorities to immediately release all its detained staff unconditionally along with their belongings and equipment.

Greste is a veteran journalist who previously worked for Reuters, CNN and the BBC over the past two decades.

Human-rights groups say conditions for journalists in Egypt have become difficult since Morsi was removed by the military on July 3, 2013.

The latest arrests come after a series of clashes between police and Muslim Brotherhood supporters across Egypt.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said on Monday that Egypt, Syria and Iraq have become among the deadliest countries for journalists to work in.

In a special report released by the New York-based organisation said conditions in the country had “deteriorated dramatically”.

“Amid stark political polarisation and related street violence, things deteriorated dramatically for journalists in Egypt, where six journalists were killed for their work in 2013.”

 

Egyptian military injured in bomb attack – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Egyptian military injured in bomb attack – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

A car laden with 20kg of explosives was detonated remotely near the entrance to the military building [Reuters]
At least four people have been injured in an explosion near the military intelligence building in Sharqiya, in Egypt’s Nile Delta, the third bombing on the mainland in less than a week.Three men left a car laden with 20kg of explosives by the entrance to the building on Sunday morning, and detonated it from a distance with a remote control, according to an Egyptian army spokesperson. The military is conducting a search of the the area for the assailants.

Colonel Ahmed Ali, a spokesman for the army, said the intelligence building was partly damaged by the blast. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Attacks on police and military installations have become a regular occurrence in Egypt.

On Tuesday, a powerful car bomb exploded near a police station in Mansoura, another city in the Delta, killing 14 people and injuring more than 150 others. Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, a Sinai-based group, claimed responsibility for the bombing in a statement posted online.

But the army-backed interim cabinet nonetheless blamed the Muslim Brotherhood, and the next day designated the Brotherhood as a “terrorist organisation.”

Hundreds of members have been arrested over the past few days for staging protests, and there were reports in local newspapers on Sunday that some of the group’s remaining leadership had fled the country.

On Thursday, a homemade bomb exploded near a bus in Cairo, injuring five passengers. Police said they defused two other bombs planted in the same area. It was one of the first attacks in Cairo that targeted civilians.

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has staged hundreds of attacks against police and soldiers on the Sinai peninsula, but it has recently carried out several high-profile bombings on the mainland.

The group claimed credit for a September assassination attempt on the interior minister in Cairo.

 

Protester killed during clashes in Bangladesh – Central & South Asia – Al Jazeera English

Protester killed during clashes in Bangladesh – Central & South Asia – Al Jazeera English.

Supporters accuse authorities of keeping opposition figure Khaleda Zia under de facto house arrest. [AFP]
Bangladesh police fired water cannon and shotguns at opposition protesters in the capital, killing one person, at the start of a banned mass march aimed at thwarting next month’s general election.Hundreds of demonstrators, some throwing home-made bombs, battled police on Sunday as they tried to gather at the opposition’s headquarters and other places throughout Dhaka for the so-called “March for Democracy”.

The opposition says an election scheduled for January 5 must be held under a neutral caretaker government, as in the past, to prevent ballot-rigging.

BNP leader Khaleda Zia, a two-time former prime minister and Hasina’s arch-rival, has urged supporters to defy the ban on Sunday’s march and converge on the capital.

In Rampura neighbourhood, more than 200 demonstrators threw small bombs at police who responded with shotgun blasts during clashes there that left one person dead, a senior officer said.

Police have banned the so-called “March for Democracy” amid fears that the rally would become a focal point for more unrest after what has already been the deadliest year of political violence in the country’s history.

Police have detained more than 750 opposition supporters as a “preventive measure”, while authorities have suspended Dhaka-bound bus, ferry and train services, virtually cutting off the city from the rest of the country.

The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its allies have staged weeks of deadly protests, strikes and transport blockades to try to force Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to resign. Dozens of people have been killed.

Sticks and rocks

Running battles erupted between police and protesters near the BNP headquarters where Zia was scheduled later Sunday to address the rally, TV footage showed.

Ruling party activists, armed with sticks and rocks, also clashed with opposition protesters outside the press club.

Scores of police stopped Khaleda Zia’s car as it tried to drive from her house to the march in the capital, where hundreds of her supporters are clashing with security forces, aide Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury said.

“Khaleda Zia boarded her car and tried to leave her house to lead the march. But police barred her car from leaving,” Chowdhury, who is also a vice-president of Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party, told AFP news agency.

Police and security forces have conducted nationwide raids, searching trains and buses to arrest opposition supporters.

They have also set up check posts for passengers and commuters at the entry points to Dhaka.

Security has been tight in the city with around 11,000 officers and the elite Rapid Action Battalion patrolling the streets and key flashpoints.

 

Egyptian students clash with security forces – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Egyptian students clash with security forces – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

Egyptian students opposed to the July 3 coup have clashed with police at a university campus in Cairo and set two buildings on fire, state television reported.

A student activist was killed after being hit in the face with a birdshot, and four others were injured, during the violence on Saturday at the Al-Azhar University campus, according to the Ministry of Health.

The Ministry of Interior said that at least 60 students have been arrested.

State-run newspaper Al-Ahram said the clashes began when security forces fired tear gas to disperse pro-Brotherhood students who were preventing their colleagues from entering university buildings to take exams. Protesters threw rocks at the police and set tyres on fire to counter tear gas attacks.

State TV broadcast footage of black smoke billowing from the faculty of commerce building, and reported that protesters also set the agriculture faculty building on fire.

Al-Azhar, a centre of Sunni Islamic learning, has for months been the scene of protests against what the Brotherhood calls a “military coup” that deposed former President Mohamed Morsi after a year in office.

Youssof Salheen, a spokesman of the pro-Brotherhood “Students Against the Coup” movement, told Al Jazeera that Khaled El-Haddad, a student at Al-Azhar’s School of Commerce died at campus, but did not clarify the cause of death.

It was not immediately possible to confirm the student’s account, and a security source denied there had been any deaths.

The violence followed a day of clashes across the country that left five people dead.

Supporters of the Brotherhood took to the streets on Friday after the government designated the group a terrorist organisation – a move that increases the penalties for dissent against the military-led government installed after Morsi was overthrown.

Morsi was the country’s first elected president who took the power after the toppling of veteran leader Hosni Mubarak in 2011

 

Egypt declares Brotherhood ‘terrorist group’ – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Egypt declares Brotherhood ‘terrorist group’ – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

Egypt’s interim government has declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation, a move that gives authorities greater freedom to crack down on the group.Hossam Eissa, a deputy prime minister, announced the decision on Wednesday night after a lengthy cabinet meeting.

“The cabinet has declared the Muslim Brotherhood and its organisation as a terrorist organisation,” he said.

The cabinet’s announcement came one day after a deadly car bombing outside a police headquarters in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura. Fourteen people were killed in the blast, most of them officers, and more than 150 others were wounded.

A Sinai-based militant group, Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, claimed responsibility for the blast in a statement published online on Wednesday.

But the government blamed the Brotherhood for the attack, though it provided no evidence connecting the group to the attack.

The Brotherhood’s London press office issued a statement on Tuesday that “strongly condemned” the bombing.

“Egypt suffered an ugly crime committed by the Muslim Brotherhood,” Eissa said. “It is a clear declaration from [the group], which has not known anything but violence since its beginning.”

The Brotherhood has staged near-daily protests since President Mohamed Morsi was ousted by the army in July following widespread popular protests. Thousands of its members have been killed and jailed since then, and the group has faced mounting legal problems.

In September, a court ordered the Brotherhood banned and its assets seized, a decision that was upheld on appeal in November.

Wednesday’s decision takes the ban a step further: Under the Egyptian penal code, members of the Brotherhood could now face up to five years in prison simply for belonging to the group.

Morsi himself is already in prison, facing charges that include espionage and terrorism. Most of the Brotherhood’s leadership has also been jailed since the coup.

Ahmed el-Borai, the minister of social solidarity, said that the cabinet also would notify other Arab states which are signatories to international conventions against terrorism.

The Brotherhood has sister organisations, and extensive fundraising operations, in many countries around the region.

 

Analysis: As Egypt hardliners gain, scope for conflict grows | Top News | Reuters

Analysis: As Egypt hardliners gain, scope for conflict grows | Top News | Reuters.

By Tom Perry

CAIRO (Reuters) – If there was any hope left that the generals who overthrew Egypt’s elected president six months ago might ease the state’s crackdown on dissent, a suicide bomb that ripped through a police station on Tuesday may have destroyed it.

The most populous Arab country enters the new year with deeper divisions in its society and more bloodshed on its streets than at any point in its modern history. The prospects for democracy appear bleaker with every bomb blast and arrest.

The army-backed government says it will shepherd Egypt back to democracy and points out that the state defeated Islamist militants when they last launched waves of attacks in the 1990s. But this time around there are more weapons and harder ideologies, and a bitter example of a failed democratic experiment to toughen positions on all sides.

Like much of the recent violence, the bombing that killed 16 people on Tuesday was bloodier than all but the very worst attacks of the 1990s. The tactic of using suicide bombers to hit security forces is more familiar to Iraq or Syria than to Egypt, which for all its history of militancy is one of the few big Arab states that has never experienced a modern civil war.

The blast was claimed by a Sinai Peninsula-based Islamist militant group, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which has stepped up attacks on government targets in recent months and narrowly failed to assassinate the interior minister in September.

The blast set off mob attacks on the shops, homes and vehicles of people believed to be supporters of ousted President Mohamed Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood.

“After the funerals of the martyrs, angry people smashed my pharmacy and my brother’s shop,” said Mohamed Heikal, a Brotherhood activist in the city of Mansoura, scene of Tuesday’s bombing. “We had nothing to do with what happened,” he said, condemning the bombing as a terrorist attack.

With much of the public feverishly backing the government’s calls to uproot the Brotherhood, talk of political accommodation is non-existent. Analysts see little or no chances of a political deal to stabilize a nation in turmoil since Hosni Mubarak’s downfall in 2011.

Signs of escalation abound. Mursi and other top Brotherhood leaders have been ordered to stand trial on charges that could lead to their execution. They are charged with conspiring with foreigners to carry out a terrorist plot against Egypt.

Following Tuesday’s attack, Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organization.

Meanwhile, the frequency of attacks suggests militants are taking centre stage within the Islamist movement, further diminishing hopes of the state reaching an accommodation with moderates and strengthening the hawks in government.

One consequence could be to increase the chances of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi becoming Egypt’s next president.

The army chief who deposed Mursi after mass protests against Brotherhood rule has yet to decide whether to run, an army source said. Though Sisi would almost certainly win were he to run, the source said he is hesitant partly due to the mountain of problems awaiting Egypt’s next head of state.

But analysts say the increase in violence makes it less likely Sisi and those around him would trust anyone else with the reins of power.

“The more dire the situation becomes, the less a second tier civilian candidate will be seen able to take charge of the situation,” said Michael Wahid Hanna, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a New York-based think-tank. “This type of deterioration will increase pressure on Sisi to run.”

MOST SOLDIERS KILLED SINCE ’73 WAR

Crowds that gathered outside the compound hit in Tuesday’s attack to show support for the security forces brandished Sisi’s portrait.

Egypt has experienced violence for decades including the assassination of President Anwar Sadat by an Islamist gunman in 1981, and attacks on tourist sites in the 1990s that hurt the economy. But civil bloodshed has now reached an unprecedented level.

A conservative estimate puts the overall death toll since Mursi’s fall at well over 1,500. Most of those killed were Mursi supporters, including hundreds gunned down when the security forces cleared a protest vigil outside a Cairo mosque.

At least 350 members of the security forces have also been killed in bombings and shootings since Mursi’s downfall. The state has declared them martyrs of a war on terror.

The army has suffered its greatest casualties since the 1973 Middle East war, most of them in the Sinai Peninsula, where the most heavily armed Islamists are based.

The blood spilt since Mursi’s downfall has evoked comparisons with Algeria – a country pitched into a decade of civil war in 1991 when its army aborted an experiment with democracy because Islamists looked set to win power.

Some dismiss that comparison, arguing the past failures of militants in Egypt should dissuade Islamists from following that path.

But as the attacks spread beyond the Sinai Peninsula, the risks are compounded by the large quantities of weapons smuggled in from neighboring Libya since the downfall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, in a war that saw his arsenals looted by rebels.

“This particular incident shows that the group operating in Mansoura is very organized, well equipped and capable,” said Mustapha Kamel Al-Sayid, a professor of political science at Cairo University, referring to the Nile Valley town where Tuesday’s attack took place.

“This points to the difficulty of any kind of compromise between the government and Islamist groups.”

FREEDOMS IN DANGER

The Brotherhood, most of whose leadership are in jail, continues to reiterate its mantra of peaceful resistance and denies turning to violence.

It is pressing a campaign of protests on university campuses where its followers routinely clash with the police.

But as that strategy fails to make much of an impact, there is a risk of radical logic winning over its supporters, posing a threat to the Brotherhood itself.

Analysts believe the security establishment now has a firm grip over the course of government, reasserting political influence that diminished after the 2011 uprising. Activists say the freedoms won in that uprising are in danger.

The state has widened a crackdown on dissent, on December 22 jailing three leading secular activists to three years in prison for breaking a law that severely curbs the right to protest – a major blow against those behind the January 25, 2011 revolution.

“What we see now is a security apparatus that really seems to be out of control, going after individuals and groups it has grudges against,” said Nathan Brown, a professor of political science at George Washington University.

“You do sometimes hear murmurs that people in the leadership worry that an overly harsh set of actions will make the political divisions in Egypt worse, and there has to be some kind of lessening of the security crackdown.

“This bombing puts off that date.”

Khaled Dawoud, a liberal politician, said the wave of Islamist attacks will make calls for reconciliation even less popular. He has continued to call for a political accommodation even after being stabbed by Mursi supporters in October.

“In any country where terrorism takes place, public freedoms and hopes for democracy suffer a retreat. That is the law of gravity,” he said.

 

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