Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 1 November 2014

Nine killed in new Egypt clashes

Smoke rises from a security headquarters building in the southern Sinai town of el-Tor, Egypt (AP)

A string of attacks has killed nine members of Egypt's security and military forces in an apparent retaliation by Islamic militants a day after more than 50 supporters of the ousted president were killed in clashes with police.

The attacks included the first strike against civilian infrastructure in the heart of the capital Cairo. They also blurred the lines between the wave of Islamist protests against the military removal of president Mohammed Morsi and an insurgency that had been previously been largely confined to the northern Sinai Peninsula.

It is also likely to harden positions of the military-backed government and its opponents, making reconciliation more difficult.

"We are at war with them," said Mohammed Ibrahim, the country's interior minister in charge of security forces, pointing to militant groups. He suggested the surge in attacks, particularly the targeting of a satellite communications station - which left minor damage on one of the dishes - was in retaliation for the government crackdown on protests on Sunday.

"This is an attempt to prove they are still around and are not broken. They also aim to confuse, to distract."

In another development likely to give momentum to the government crackdown on Islamists, a panel of judges recommended the dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood's political party, the Freedom and Justice Party, which was registered months after the 2011 ousting of autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

The judges' recommendation said the party represents an outlawed group. The recommendations will be delivered to a Cairo court reviewing a case demanding the party's dissolution on October 19.

Another court had already ordered a ban on the Brotherhood's activities, and froze its assets, a decision being reviewed by a government-appointed committee amid legal challenges from group members.

Ashraf Badreddin, a member of the FJP, said authorities had already shut down offices of the party long before a court decision, telling Doha-based satellite broadcaster Al-Jazeera Mubasher Masr that the recommendation was "politicised".

At least 2,000 of the group's leading and mid-level members have been detained, including Mr Morsi, and head of the FJP, Saad el-Katatni. Most of them will face trial on charges that range from murder and inciting violence to abuse of power and conspiring with foreign powers. Hundreds of others died in a violent crackdown on protests and sit-ins held by Morsi supporters.

Authorities accuse pro-Morsi supporters of seeking to create chaos to discredit the new government. The government says it is waging war against terrorism.

Pro-Morsi supporters deny they resort to violence.

A suicide bomber struck a security headquarters in the town of el-Tor, in southern Sinai, killing three policemen, wounding 55 others, and damaging the building. Southern Sinai is famous for its beach resorts such as Sharm el-Sheikh and has been generally spared the violence of the northern tip of the peninsula in the past six years. Attacks there in 2005 and 2006 killed dozens, including tourists.

Near-daily attacks against security forces and soldiers in the volatile northern Sinai Peninsula have increasingly resembled a full-fledged insurgency, especially in the three months since the removal of Morsi. Ibrahim said counter-insurgency operations there have pushed militants into neighbouring southern Sinai.

The body parts of the suicide bomber in el-Tor are being analyaed to determine who was behind the attack.

In another attack, masked gunmen pulled alongside a pick-up truck full of troops on patrol near the Suez Canal and opened fire, killing six soldiers, security officials said.

And in a brazen targeting of a civilian infrastructure, gunmen believed to be hiding in nearby buildings fired a projectile into the compound housing the satellite dishes just before dawn, leaving a hole in one but causing no disruption of communications.

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