Egypt unrest: Leaders plan strike against Muslim Brotherhood as Cairo protest branded threat to national security

Almost 300 people have been killed in weeks of violence since the army deposed the former president

Cairo

Egyptian authorities gave the strongest indication yet that security forces were preparing a strike against the Muslim Brotherhood - announcing in a televised statement that the group's month-long Cairo sit-in was a threat to 'national security' and would soon be ended.

The statement, which was issued by the country's interim cabinet, prompted fears that of another deadly confrontation between authorities and Muslim Brotherhood supporters.

The move against the sit-in protest came as it emerged that Egypt's prosecutors have referred three of the Brotherhood's most senior figures for trial.

They include the group's revered Supreme Guide, Mohamed Badie, along with his deputy Khairat al-Shater and senior leader Rashad Bayoumi. All three are wanted for charges related to inciting violence.

At least 300 people have been killed in nationwide clashes since the June 30 - the date the former president Mohamed Morsi was toppled by an army-led coup. The dead include scores of Islamists who have been gunned down during two separate massacres within the space of three weeks - more than 80 of whom were killed on Sunday when police tried to disperse the sit-in at Rabaa.

The developments raised fears that an anti-Islamist crackdown - which has been anticipated by many since an ominous speech by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt's top military commander public face of the coup, last week - is now imminent.

During its televised address, the interim cabinet said that “terrorist acts” and continued traffic disruption were no longer acceptable and “represent a threat to Egyptian national security”.

It added: “The cabinet decided to begin taking all necessary measures to address these dangers and put an end to them, commissioning the interior minister to do all that is necessary regarding this matter within the framework of the constitution and the law.”

Since the first day of the June 30 revolt, tens of thousands of Mr Morsi's supporters have been maintaining a vigil from two giant tent encampments in separate parts of the city.

The largest, in the suburb of Nasr City in eastern Cairo, has often been filled with tens of thousands of people.

The vast majority of them appear adamant that they will not leave the streets until Mohamed Morsi is reinstated as President - an impossible demand for the Brotherhood's opponents to recognise. Any attempt to clear so many protesters by force would turn into a bloodbath.

This evening [WED] Gehad el-Haddad, a spokesman for the Brotherhood, remained resolute in his assurance that Mr Morsi's supporters would not melt away. “We don't recognise this government and we don't recognise the authorities or the laws they represent,” he told Reuters.

Speaking to The Independent, a pro-Morsi activist said he was not afraid of the impending crackdown. “How much worse can it get?” asked Mohamed Soltan, referring to the two massacres which took place this month. “The government doesn't understand that blood is the fuel and fire of revolutions.”

Egypt has become dangerously polarised over the course of the past month. Many people - spurred on by a resolutely anti-Brotherhood media - have begun to think of the Islamists camped in Nasr City as little more than a gang of would-be militants.

Statements from the military and television presenters have roused a collective fear of the national “terrorist” threat - conflating a genuine problem of Islamic militancy in North Sinai with scaremongering aimed at followers of Mohamed Morsi.

“The pro-Morsi protest is not a sit-in,” said Haitham al-Shawaf, a member of a youth revolutionary group. “The people there are not protesters, they are militants.”

In a bid to counter the increasingly trenchant rhetoric emerging from both sides, a group calling itself the Third Square movement has occupied yet another plaza in eastern Cairo with a view to rejecting both the influence of the military and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Yet in a sign of how little traction is being gained by appeals to moderation, the campaign has already earned the opprobrium of Tamarod, the youth movement which spearheaded the June 30 revolt.

The group's spokesman, Mohamed Abdul Aziz, said Third Square was “dividing the people”, adding: “They are living in the past. Now is the time for consensus, we need to move forward.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
News
i100
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of the late singer Whitney Houston, poses at the premiere of
people
News
people
News
The frequency with which we lie and our ability to get away with it both increase to young adulthood then decline with age, possibly because of changes that occur in the brain
scienceRoger Dobson knows the true story, from Pinocchio to Pollard
Voices
The male menopause: those affected can suffer hot flushes, night sweats, joint pain, low libido, depression and an increase in body fat, among other symptoms
voicesSo the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Life and Style
health
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen