Revolutionary twits tweet while Gandhi's army marches into the Valley of Death

August 18, 2013

In Blog

Egypt braces for more unrest as Muslim Brotherhood calls for fresh protests

Military-backed government signals that crackdown will continue amid defiant campaign to rebuff international criticism


Egypt braced for further unrest on Sunday after the Muslim Brotherhood called for fresh marches in Cairo and the military-backed government signalled a continuing crackdown and a defiant campaign to rebuff mounting international criticism of the killing of hundreds of Islamists over the last week.

Armoured vehicles were deployed around the presidential palace and constitutional court after the Brotherhood said its protests against the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi would go on despite the bloodshed.

The EU said it would urgently review relations with Egypt, and William Hague condemned the “disproportionate use of force by the security forces or violent actions by some demonstrators”.

Hours after Egyptian security forces cleared Brotherhood protesters out of a mosque in central Cairo, state media was pumping out attacks on what it called “terrorists”, accusing them of having desecrated a holy place by firing from the minaret at troops and police in the street below.

Ikhwanweb, a Brotherhood website, reported the mosque’s imam as confirming that only the security forces had access to the minaret, implying a staged provocation. No casualties were reported, but 385 people, including three Iranians, a Turk and a Syrian were detained, according to state TV, to the cheers of loyalist crowds in the street outside.

Claims and counterclaims are being made in a highly polarised atmosphere in which truth and propaganda are extremely hard to disentangle. Reporters who were in the mosque near Ramses Square did not see any weapons.

As the cabinet met to consider an outright ban on the Islamist movement, the foreign minister, Nabil Fahmy, warned against the internationalisation of the crisis and suggested that Egypt was not worried about threats to cut financial aid.

“I want to determine what is useful and what is not and what aid is being used to pressure Egypt and whether this aid has good intentions and credibility,” he told reporters. “We are not looking to replace one friend with another, but we will look out to the world and continue to establish relations with other countries so we have options,” he said.

“The relation between Egypt and the US has been there for a long time. It has been through ups and downs in the past. We hope things will go back to normal promptly.”

In the face of western criticism Egypt is relying increasingly on political and financial support from its conservative Arab allies, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which are both delighted at Morsi’s removal.

State or loyalist media coverage on TV and in the newspapers on Sunday portrayed the Brotherhood as having been comprehensively defeated. Some 800 people were killed in the last week alone in the worst violence since the army deposed Morsi with widespread popular support on 3 July. “Egypt will not bow its knees,” declared the main headline in the al-Akhbar daily.

On Saturday, the interior ministry said 1,004 Brotherhood members had been detained in raids across the country, with bombs, weapons and ammunition seized.

The Brotherhood has called for daily demonstrations since the attack on its two main protest camps in Cairo last Wednesday left hundreds of people dead. Another 173 people were killed in clashes across the country on Friday. The pro-Morsi Anti-Coup Alliance announced plans for six marches on Sunday.

Ahmed al-Tayyeb, the sheikh of al-Azhar, Egypt’s supreme state Islamic institution, called for co-operation and dialogue to restore stability. “Violence will achieve nothing,” he said in a statement broadcast repeatedly on national TV. He also called for respect for mosques and churches. The Brotherhood has denied some of the attacks blamed on it, and reported finding false beards at some sites, apparently suggesting that they had been used by state security forces to mount attacks on Christians in order to smear the Islamists.