Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has called for nationwide protests against military-backed interim government despite severe crackdown on its leadership.
The Brotherhood’s call for mass protests and sit-ins on Friday will test how much the security crackdown has crippled the group and if they can still mobilise their base.
Egypt’s security forces have increased their presence in the streets ahead of the planned demonstrations and accused the Islamist group of using rallies to create chaos.
The Interior Ministry said in a nationally televised statement on Thursday that its forces would deal with “firmness” against acts that threaten national security, and that police had orders to use deadly force in defence of public and private property.
The ministry said that the Brotherhood’s calls are aimed at stirring chaos.
The Brotherhood released a four-page statement in Arabic on Thursday, part of which called on security forces to disobey orders “to kill”.
Islamist leaders arrested
Authorities continued to hunt down senior Islamist leaders, arresting two top Brotherhood figures, including Mohamed el-Beltagy on Thursday.
Beltagy, a former member of parliament and head of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, was wanted on accusations that he incited violence and had been on the run for nearly three weeks.
Some fear Friday’s protests could tailspin into another bout of violence.
Bloodshed in Egypt peaked on August 14 when police, backed by snipers and bulldozers, attacked two Brotherhood-led sit-ins in the capital, Cairo, protesting against July 3 military ouster of Mohamed Morsi, country’s first democratically elected president.
The move caused days of nationwide violence that has killed more than 1,000 people, most of them Morsi’s supporters.
Many retaliated by attacking police stations, torching churches and setting government buildings on fire.
Meanwhile, in an interview with The Associated Press, a leader of a former armed group, Gamaa Islamiya, Abboud el-Zommor, urged both Muslim Brotherhood and military to make “concessions” and acknowledged that both are responsible for the bloodshed.
“There were miscalculations,” he said about the Brotherhood alliance refusing to disband the sit-in before state crackdown.
El-Zommor said he met with military generals and Brotherhood members who both welcomed his call to take measures to stop escalations.
“We noticed that the military is willing to find an exit knowing the dangers of continuation of the struggle,” he said.