CAIRO — Political infighting threatened to stall Egypt’s transition plans today, as the military cracked down on Muslim Brotherhood leaders it blames for inciting a clash in Cairo in which troops shot and killed 53 protesters.
Monday’s violence between supporters of ousted President Mohamed Mursi, Egypt’s first freely elected leader toppled by the army last week, and soldiers at a military compound has opened deep fissures in the Arab world’s most populous country.
Yesterday, Egypt’s public prosecutor ordered the arrest of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie and several other senior Islamists, evoking memories of when the movement was repressed under autocratic former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in 2011.
Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood called for protest marches on Friday, when noon prayers are held in mosques, raising the risk of more violence after fighting between rival factions swept Egypt last week and killed 35 people.
Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad said the leaders had not been arrested and some were still attending a protest vigil at Rabaa Adawiya mosque, where thousands of supporters have camped out for the past two weeks despite punishing heat.
He said the charges against them of inciting violence were “nothing more than an attempt by the police state to dismantle the Rabaa protest”.
“What can we do?” he asked. “In a police state, when the police force are criminals, the judiciary are traitors and the investigators are the fabricators, what can one do?”
Egypt’s 84 million people are increasingly divided between those who rallied on June 30 to demand Mursi’s resignation and angry Islamists who say their democratic rights have been crushed in what they call a military coup. (Reuters)