Egyptian authorities yesterday escalated their crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood by ordering the arrest of its spiritual leader, while the group remained steadfast in its defiance of the new military-backed administration and refused offers to join an interim government.
Even as the new prime minister began reaching out to form a Cabinet and restore a measure of stability, the military-backed leadership has come under fierce criticism from those who supported its toppling of ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi last week. Several groups in the loose coalition participating in the political process have sharply criticized the transitional plan, saying that sidelines them in the transition.
After a week of violence and mass demonstrations, Egyptians were hoping that the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan yesterday would significantly calm the turmoil in the streets. The sunrise-to-sunset fast cuts down on activity during the day, but the daily protests have been largely nocturnal affairs, and some observers expect the Islamist camp will likely use it to rally its base.
The prosecutor’s arrest warrant issued yesterday for the Brotherhood’s supreme guide, Mohammed Badie, as well as nine other leading Islamists will almost certainly stoke anger among the group’s supporters and fellow Islamists. The men are suspected of instigating the violence on Monday outside of a Republican Guard building in Cairo that left at least 54 Morsi supporters dead, according to a statement issued by the prosecutor general’s office.
The killings further entrenched the battle lines between supporters and opponents of Morsi, and the ousted leader’s Brotherhood backers called for an uprising, accusing troops of gunning down protesters. The military blamed armed Islamists for provoking its forces.
Still, the warrants highlight the military’s zero-tolerance policy toward the Brotherhood and other Islamists, who continue to hold daily mass protests and sit-ins demanding Morsi’s reinstatment and rejecting what they describe as a military coup.
The military already has jailed five of Brotherhood leaders, including Badie’s powerful deputy Khairat el-Shaiter.