The Egyptian government yesterday pressed its fierce campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood of ousted president Mohamed Morsi, effectively decapitating the Islamist group by arresting its supreme guide.
The detention of supreme guide Mohamed Badie could throw the Brotherhood into further disarray as it struggles to withstand an onslaught by the army-installed authorities.
It also raises fears of new violence in the country, where nearly 900 people have died in days of clashes between security forces and supporters of Morsi.
In the latest bloodshed, militants killed 25 policemen in the restive Sinai Peninsula, just hours after 37 Muslim Brotherhood prisoners died in police custody.
Meanwhile, judicial sources said fresh accusations had been leveled against Morsi, who has been detained at a secret location since his July 3 ouster by the army.
Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak won conditional release in the third of four cases against him, but remained in detention on the last case.
The interior ministry said police picked up Badie near Rabaa al-Adawiya square, where more than 280 Morsi supporters were killed on Wednesday last week as police cleared their protest camp.
It released a video of the 70-year-old, sitting impassively on a sofa, bottles of juice and water placed conspicuously in front of him.
A senior Brotherhood official, Ahmed Aref, said on its Web site on Monday that Badie’s arrest would change nothing.
“The leader of the Muslim Brotherhood is just one individual ... among the millions who oppose the coup,” he said.
Dozens of senior Brotherhood members have been arrested or are at large, after being accused of crimes including inciting the deaths of protesters before Morsi’s ouster.
Violence continued to rock the country and draw international opprobrium.
On Monday morning, militants killed 25 riot police in two buses in the Sinai Peninsula, in the deadliest such attack in decades.
The interior ministry blamed the attack on “armed terrorist groups” and Egypt closed its border with the Palestinian Gaza strip, near where the attack occurred.
Security sources said another policeman was killed in north Sinai, bringing the number of security force members killed in the area since Morsi’s ouster to 75.
On Monday evening, coffins draped with Egyptian flags carrying the bodies of the 25 police arrived in Cairo.
State television offered live coverage of the arrival and added a black mourning strip to the “Egypt fighting terrorism” banner it has run for days.
The Sinai attack came hours after 37 Muslim Brotherhood detainees died as they were being transferred to a north Cairo jail.
Authorities said they suffocated on tear gas fired by police trying to free an officer the prisoners had taken hostage.
However, the Brotherhood held the police accountable, accusing them of “murder”.
They said the incident affirmed “the intentional violence aimed at opponents of the coup and the cold-blooded killing of which they are targets.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was “deeply disturbed” by the deaths and called for a “full investigation to ascertain the facts surrounding this incident.”
Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said on Monday in Sudan that his country was on the “right path.”
However, the international community has fiercely condemned the violence, with rights group Amnesty International decrying it as “utter carnage.”
Amnesty secretary-general Salil Shetty said that the Egyptian government had “stained its human rights record.”
And Human Rights Watch called on Egypt’s rulers to “urgently reverse” instructions for police to use live ammunition against protesters.
In response to the violence, EU ambassadors held an urgent meeting in Brussels and foreign ministers were due to review the bloc’s ties with Egypt today.