18 August 2013, 10:44

Muslim Brotherhood may face ban in Egypt after Islamists call week of protests

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The Muslim Brotherhood may be banned in Egypt, says a spokesman for the country’s interim prime minister’s. The threat comes after the Islamist movement called for a week of protest against a military crackdown which has left hundreds dead.

Struggling to stamp its authority on Egypt following the ousting last month of President Mohammed Morsi, the country's new rulers have upped the rhetoric, saying the Arab world's most populous nation is at war with terrorism.

More than 700 people have died, most of them backers of Morsi, in four days of violence. That has earned Egypt stiff condemnation from Western nations, uncomfortable with Islamist rule but also with the overthrow of an elected government.

The crackdown has, however, drawn messages of support from key Arab allies like Saudi Arabia, which have long feared the spread of Brotherhood ideology to the Gulf monarchies.

Blaming a defiant Brotherhood for the bloodshed, Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi proposed dissolving the group in a move that would force it underground and could usher in mass arrests of its members countrywide.

The government said it was studying the possibility.

Morsi supporters gear up for fresh protests in Cairo

Supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi were planning fresh protests across Cairo on Sunday, raising fears of further bloodshed after hundreds were killed this week.

In defiance of the military-backed government's crackdown, Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood group and its Islamist allies announced they will hold at least nine marches across the Egyptian capital, and gather near the Constitutional Court in southern Cairo.

The rallies come as the government mulls legally dissolving the Brotherhood and prosecutors question 250 supporters of Morsi on murder and terrorism charges.

The government accuses Islamist leaders of inciting violence and has vowed to deal firmly with what it called "powers of terrorism and sabotage."

Violence began on Wednesday when security forces launched crackdowns on two major pro-Morsi demonstrations in Cairo. About 750 people were killed during the crackdown and the ensuing violence across the country.

The stock market and banks will re-open on Sunday, after being closed since Wednesday, when Egypt imposed a state of emergency and a curfew in around 12 provinces.

The army's overthrow of Morsi July 3, after protests by millions of Egyptians demanding he step down, has deeply divided Egypt, which is the Arab world's most populous country.

The clampdown on Islamist protesters has drawn international condemnation, mainly from Europe and the United States. However, the Gulf countries have expressed support for Egypt's interim rulers.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Saturday that he was alarmed by the violent protests and excessive use of force in response.

UN chief calls for end in Egypt violence

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the conflicting sides in Egypt to shift to de-escalation and to immediately put an end to violence, his press service said on a statement.

“The Secretary-General believes that preventing further loss of life should be the Egyptians' highest priority at this dangerous moment,” the statement said. “He urges those in the street and those in authority to use maximum restraint and shift immediately to de-escalation.”

The statement also said that Ban Ki-moon “appeals to the authorities and to the political leaders to adopt a credible plan to contain the violence and revive the political process hijacked by violence.”

250 Muslim Brotherhood supporters face murder, terrorism probe

Egyptian prosecutors are questioning 250 supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi on murder, attempted murder and terrorism charges, state-run television reported on Saturday.

Police arrested more than 1,000 Brotherhood sympathisers in the wake of clashes on Friday that pitted followers of deposed Islamist President Mohamed Morsi against the security forces. More than 170 people died nationwide in the violence that day.

Pro-Morsi cleric, six Brotherhood members arrested in Cairo

Egyptian security forces arrested hardline cleric Safwat Hegazy, a staunch supporter of ousted president Mohammed Morsi, and six members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo on Saturday, a security official said.

Hegazy faces charges of inciting murder and violence.

UK FM slams Egypt violence

British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Saturday said Britain condemned all acts of violence in Egypt, whether by the security forces or demonstrators, and called attacks on mosques and churches "unacceptable".

Hague made the comments in a phone call with his Egyptian counterpart Nabil Fahmy, the Foreign Office in London said."The foreign secretary and the Egyptian foreign minister spoke about the tragic violence and loss of life over recent days," a spokeswoman for the ministry said in a statement."The foreign secretary emphasized UK condemnation of all acts of violence, whether disproportionate use of force by the security forces or violent actions by some demonstrators.

"They also discussed the recent attacks on places of worship and the foreign secretary stressed that attacks on mosques and churches were unacceptable and that places of worship must be protected."

Egyptian police cleared Islamist protesters from a Cairo mosque on Saturday after a standoff that included exchanges of fire, as the death toll from four days of violence surpassed 750.

"The foreign secretary noted the Egyptian government's stated commitment to the political roadmap published on July 4, based on dialogue between all parties who accepted peaceful political processes," the spokeswoman said."He underlined the need for urgent steps by all sides to end the violence and enable a return to dialogue. The foreign secretary also emphasized the EU's collective determination to support a peaceful resolution of the situation."

Jimmy Carter urges calm in Egypt

Former US President Jimmy Carter called for calm in Egypt on Saturday, warning that the escalating violence was jeopardizing any hope of future reconciliation.

More than 750 people have died in four days of violence this week after a bloody crackdown in Cairo on supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.The bloodshed has been widely condemned by the international community, and Carter urged Egyptian security forces to show greater restraint.

"I am deeply concerned that the ongoing violence in Egypt is rapidly eroding the chances for dialogue and a road to reconciliation," Carter said in a statement."The recent confrontations have already resulted in hundreds of deaths, and turning against one another will only lead to more pain and suffering."Carter called on Egyptian security forces to "remain within reasonable limitations" and to show a "fundamental respect for the human rights," of their compatriots.

President Barack Obama has faced criticism in the United States for his handling of the Egypt crisis. He has resisted cutting aid to Egypt's military.A recent Washington Post editorial said Obama's administration had been "complicit" in the crackdown because it had shown to Egypt's rulers "that its warnings were not credible."

Islamists cleared from Cairo mosque - security source

Egyptian police cleared Islamist protesters from a Cairo mosque on Saturday after a standoff that included exchanges of fire, as the death toll from four days of violence surpassed 750.

Security forces dragged supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi from the Al-Fath mosque, passing through angry crowds who tried to beat the Islamists, calling them "terrorists".

The clashes came as the government said 173 people had been killed in the past 24 hours alone, bring the country's death toll to more than 750 since Wednesday, when police cleared two camps of Morsi loyalists in the capital.

According to a tally, at least 1,042 people have been killed since June 26, when Morsi supporters began protesting before mass demonstrations against the Islamist leader that prompted the military to end his single year of turbulent rule on July 3.

International criticism of the bloodshed mounted, with Germany and Qatar jointly condemning "the ongoing and brutal violence".

The standoff at Al-Fath mosque in central Ramses Square began on Friday, with security forces surrounding the building where Islamists were sheltering and trying to convince them to leave.

The Islamists had lined up the bodies of dozens of protesters who had been killed on Friday inside the mosque-turned-morgue.

By Saturday afternoon, the situation turned violent, with an AFP reporter on the scene saying gunmen inside the mosque were trading fire with police outside.

Police eventually dragged people from inside the mosque, firing in the air to hold back residents of the area who tried to attack the Islamists with sticks and iron bars.

Both outside the mosque and in several other parts of Cairo, residents targeted those suspected of being Islamists, often for no more than wearing a beard or a veil.

On Friday, Morsi supporters had announced "Friday of anger" demonstrations, which quickly turned violent, with gunshots ringing out in Cairo.

The government said those clashes killed least 173 people across the country, including 95 in the capital and 25 in Alexandria.

Among those killed on Friday was a son of Mohamed Badie, chief of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement.

The Anti-Coup Alliance of Morsi supporters announced it would end the protests shortly after a night-time curfew came into effect, but pledged daily demonstrations going forward.

It was not clear whether that call had been heeded, with no reports of demonstrations in Cairo on Saturday.

The interior ministry said it had arrested 1,004 Brotherhood "elements", and on Saturday security sources said the brother of Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri had been detained.

Security sources also said one soldier was killed in northern Sinai where militants have launched daily attacks against security forces.

Egypt's interim army-backed government has defended its actions, with presidential adviser Mustafa Hegazy saying the country's forces had acted with "a huge amount of self-restraint and self-control".

The cabinet has also insisted the security services were acting to confront a "terrorist plot".

But international criticism continued to pour in on Saturday, with Germany's foreign minister and his Qatari counterpart condemning the spiralling violence after a meeting.

"We are deeply distressed by the ongoing and brutal violence in Egypt," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said, urging dialogue.

"Otherwise there is great danger that more blood will spill... which indicates the danger of civil war," he said.

In Turkey, which backs Morsi, thousands marched in Istanbul against his ouster.

The United States has announced the cancellation of its biannual military exercise with Egypt, but stopped short of suspending $1.3 billion in annual aid.

On Saturday, the US embassy said it would not open its doors on Sunday, a working day in Egypt, saying the "possibility of protests in vicinity of the embassy continues".

In neighbouring Libya, meanwhile, an explosive device went off in front of the Egyptian consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi, causing damage but no casualties, a security official said.

Voice of Russia, dpa, TASS, AFP, Interfax, Reuters

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