Fresh attacks in Egypt heighten tensions

08 October 2013

Security forces targeted in retaliation to crackdown on Brotherhood

Militant Islamic groups are suspected of carrying out a number of attacks against members of Egypt’s security services after a wave of incidents across the country.

Five soldiers were killed at a checkpoint close to Ismailia near the Suez Canal zone, while a car bomb outside South Sinai town of Tu killed three people on Monday 7 October. Close to 50 people were injured by the blast.

The attacks are being viewed as a coordinated retaliation for the security forces’ violent clampdown on a Muslim Brotherhood-backed protest march in Cairo on 6 October.

The protests were timed to coincide with pro-army celebrations marking the anniversary of the 1973 Yom Kippur war, which saw Egypt reclaim the Sinai from Israeli forces. Police had used live ammunition and teargas on protesters killing at least 53 people.

The latest attacks are a sign of the deepening divide between the army-backed interim government and the brotherhood supporters. The worsening violence could delay the transition from an army-backed interim government to a democratically elected parliament. Egypt currently remains under a state of emergency.

The Muslim Brotherhood group has been increasingly marginalised since the military ousting of President Mohammed Mursi on 3 July. Its key leaders have been arrested and in late September the current Egyptian government decided to ban the 80-year-old Islamic movement.

The recent escalation in violence has worried western governments, with the UK issuing a statement calling for all Egyptians to be allowed a voice in the country’s future. “We are deeply concerned by the large-scale violence in Cairo and other parts of Egypt,” read a statement from UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson, which called for Egypt to pursue “an inclusive political process”.

In an interview given to local press, army chief general Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said that the ousting of Mursi saved Egypt from civil war. He said that he had warned Mursi that he was mismanaging the country, and accused the former president of prioritising the brotherhood over the country. “The armed forces are loyal to the nation while the Muslim Brotherhood’s loyalty is for the group,” he said.

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