x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Egyptian violence spreads as security forces hit by attacks

Violence targeting Egyptian security forces leaves at least nine dead, a day after 51 people die in police clashes with Islamists.

Cairo // A shooting and separate explosion targeting Egyptian security forces left at least nine dead a day after 51 people were killed in police clashes with Islamists that fuelled the turmoil threatening the nation’s political transition.

Five soldiers and one officer were killed when gunmen opened fire on them near the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya.

And three policemen were killed in a blast outside a security installation in Southern Sinai, the interior ministry said. One official described it as a car bomb.

In a separate incident, unknown assailants fired at the country’s satellite station in Cairo’s Maadi suburb, hitting a dish while not affecting the station’s performance.

“What we are witnessing is part of a very long process of confrontation that will continue to be violent until a decisive event happens,” either in the form of reconciliation or a harsher military crackdown, said Ziad Akl, a senior researcher at the Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo.

The eruption of violence underscores the difficulty of restoring security three months after the removal of former president Mohammed Morsi and a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood which fielded him.

The Brotherhood used rallies today to mark the anniversary of the 1973 war with Israel to push back against the clampdown.

But the rallies came as a panel of judges recommended that the Brotherwood be dissolved – a sign, if anything, of a wider crackdown against the Islamists.

The bloodshed is undermining efforts to revive a battered economy, leaving the most populous Arab country largely dependent on aid from Arabian Gulf states to stem a decline in foreign reserves.

Egypt’s defence minister, Gen Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, told Al Masry Al Youm newspaper today that the army intervened in the ousting of Mr Morsi on July 3 after protests against the Islamist leader to prevent a civil war.

“If we had reached the stage of civil fighting or civil war, the army wouldn’t have been able to stand against it or prevent its consequences,” said Gen Al Sisi.

The military has been waging a battle against what it describes as “terrorists” in Sinai, with officials worried the violence there could breed an insurgency in other parts of the country.

At least 375 people were injured in today’s fighting.

Many of those killed were in Cairo and Giza, both the sites of pro-Morsi sit-ins that were broken up by security forces in August leaving hundreds dead.

In the face of a wave of arrests, prosecutions and asset-freezes that has weakened its leadership, the Brotherhood and its allies continue to call for street protests to reverse what they say is the “coup” that deposed Mr Morsi.

More protests are planned for this week.

Bloomberg, with additional reporting from the Associated Press