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Egyptian government designates Muslim Brotherhood as terrorist group
By ARIEL BEN SOLOMON, REUTERS
25/12/2013
Move comes days after suicide bomb that killed 16; Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis claims responsibility for this week's attack.
 
The Egyptian government intensified its crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood on Wednesday, formally listing the group as a terrorist organization after accusing it of carrying out a suicide bomb attack on a police station that killed 16 people.

The Brotherhood on Tuesday condemned the attack in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura, north of Cairo. Earlier on Wednesday, a Sinai-based Islamist group, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, claimed responsibility for the attack that also wounded some 140 people.

The government’s move gives authorities the power to charge any member of deposed president Mohamed Morsi’s movement with belonging to a terrorist group, as well as anyone who finances the group or promotes it “verbally or in writing.”

The Brotherhood, which was founded in 1928, was Egypt’s best-organized political force until this summer’s crackdown. It estimates its membership at up to 1 million people.

“The Brotherhood terrorist designation is not a big surprise, and it is important because it gives the security forces the possibility to arrest its members very easily and keep them incarcerated indefinitely,” said Zvi Mazel, who served as Israel’s sixth ambassador to Egypt and today is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a contributor to this newspaper.

“The Muslim Brotherhood does not want to stop the resistance and it must go on,” Mazel told The Jerusalem Post. “If they admit defeat, they will disappear from the political scene. They have invested much effort and millions of dollars to reach their goal and gain power after more than 80 years.”

They also know that they cannot mobilize people for mass demonstrations, so the attacks by the jihadists are helping the Brothers destabilize the country in order to bring the Islamists back to power, he asserted.

Furthermore, the voting for the constitutional referendum might not be possible if there are many terrorist attacks, as it will disturb the government’s campaign to hold elections, he said.

There exists a lot of testimony that Hamas and Hezbollah members were present during the protests that helped bring down president Hosni Mubarak in 2011, said Mazel.

The government had said it would take harsh measures following Tuesday’s attack, which would not stop movement on its political road map, whose first step before elections is a constitutional referendum due to be held next month.

The army deposed Morsi in July following mass protests against his rule.

The government decision is the latest step in a crackdown that has put thousands of Brotherhood supporters in jail, including most of the group’s top leadership.

Hundreds of Morsi supporters have been killed in the crackdown by security forces, and the group has already been banned by a court that ordered its assets to be seized.

Since Morsi’s downfall, at least 350 members of the security forces have been killed in bombings and shootings.

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, meaning “Supporters of Jerusalem,” has claimed responsibility for a number of the attacks since Morsi’s downfall, including a failed bid to kill the interior minister in September.

In its statement claiming responsibility for the Mansoura attack, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis blamed the army-backed government for fighting “Islamic legitimacy” and spilling the blood of “oppressed Muslims.”

Following Tuesday’s attack, Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi described the Brotherhood as a terrorist group; Wednesday’s move formalizes the designation.

“All of Egypt... was terrified by the ugly crime that the Muslim Brotherhood group committed by blowing up the building of the Dakahlyia security directorate,” an emailed statement from the interim government’s cabinet office said. “The cabinet decided to declare the Muslim Brotherhood group a terrorist organization.”

It reiterated past accusations against the group, including that it tortured people at its protest camps set up after Morsi’s ouster and attacked churches.

In the past week, Morsi and other top Brotherhood leaders have been charged with terrorism and plotting with foreign groups against Egypt, crimes that can carry the death penalty.
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