Brotherhood declared a terrorist group in Egypt
CAIRO // The Egyptian government formally designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation yesterday, accusing it of carrying out a suicide attack on a police station that killed 16 people.
The move announced by a government minister, Hossam Eissa, has given the authorities the power to charge any member of the movement of the deposed president, Mohammed Morsi, with membership of a terrorist organisation, marking an escalation in the army-backed government’s crackdown on the group.
Following Tuesday’s attack, the prime minister, Hazem El Beblawi, described the Brotherhood as a terrorist group, though yesterday’s move formalises the step.
“All of Egypt was horrified by the ugly crime committed by the Muslim Brotherhood on Tuesday morning, when it blew up the Daqhaleya police headquarters,” a cabinet statement said yesterday.
“The cabinet decided to declare the Muslim Brotherhood group a terrorist organisation.”
A militant group, inspired by Al Qaeda and based in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, claimed responsibility yesterday for the bombing of the police headquarters that also wounded more than 100 people.
Ansar Beit Al Maqdis, or the Champions of Jerusalem, said it carried out the attack in Mansoura to avenge the “shedding of innocent Muslim blood” at the hands of Egypt’s “apostate regime” – a reference to the crackdown by security forces on Islamists after the removal of Mr Morsi, by the military on July 3.
While the claim posted on a militant website could not be verified, it corresponded with previous messages by the group on that forum.
It identified the suicide bomber in Tuesday’s attack by the nickname Abu Mariam.
The explosion in Mansoura was the deadliest bombing yet in a months-long wave of violence blamed on Islamist militants.
The blast was so powerful it collapsed an entire section and side wall of the five-floor building.
The attack took place as top security officials reportedly were meeting in the Mansoura headquarters to work out arrangements for the constitutional referendum scheduled for January 14 and 15.
The vote is a key step in the country’s political transition after the military removed Mr Morsi.
A security official said it appeared the Mansoura bomber drove a pickup truck laden with explosives close to the police headquarters, then detonated it.
Cairo airport authorities arrested a Brotherhood member late on Tuesday on suspicion that he was linked to the attack. The suspect – identified as 22-year-old Adel Younis Rashid who runs a computer shop in Mansoura – was taken into custody as he was trying to fly to Turkey with his mother and a friend, the official said.
The suspect is the son of a leading Brotherhood member and former legislator from Mansoura, the official said. Authorities had confiscated Mr Rashid’s computers and telephones, he said.
The Brotherhood condemned the bomb attack.
* Associated Press and Reuters
Updated: December 25, 2013 04:00 AM