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
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Kellie Bright as Linda Carter and Danny Dyer as Mick Carter

EastEnders Christmas specials are known for their shouty, over-the-top soap drama but tonight the show has done itself proud thanks to Danny Dyer.

Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Sport
sport
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy
tvCall the Midwife Christmas Special
Sport
Laura Trott and Jason Kenny are preparing for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow
sport
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth with Tess Daly in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
tvLouis Smith wins with 'Jingle Bells' quickstep on Strictly Come Dancing's Christmas Special
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there