Muslim Brotherhood threatens violence after executions

Despite public protestations of non-violence, analysts said the Brotherhood has never shied away from using violence to reach its goals.
Sunday 03/03/2019
A 2015 file picture shows Egyptian police guarding the site of a bombing that killed Egypt’s top prosecutor Hisham Barakat. (AFP)
Bloody track. A 2015 file picture shows Egyptian police guarding the site of a bombing that killed Egypt’s top prosecutor Hisham Barakat. (AFP)

CAIRO - Fears are growing in Egypt about a possible surge in terrorist attacks by the Muslim Brotherhood following the execution of nine Brotherhood members convicted for their role in the assassination of the country’s public prosecutor Hisham Barakat in June 2015.

“The Brotherhood will most likely step up its attacks in the coming days,” warned retired police General Magdi Bassiouni. “The group wants to prove that it is still alive.”

The nine operatives were among more than 60 suspects arrested after Barakat died in a car bombing. The trial, which included some Muslim Brotherhood figures being tried in absentia, lasted nearly three years.

Following the executions February 20, the Muslim Brotherhood called on its supporters to act.

“You have to prepare for a day of wrath that rids Egypt of humiliation,” the Brotherhood said February 22 in a statement. It promised “delayed condolences and deserved revenge” and told supporters to “roll up your sleeves and prove your good mettle.”

“To the criminals of the state organs: You have drunk from our blood today but tomorrow you will be wiped away by a victorious revolution with the help of God,” the statement said.

The statement was the most direct incitement by the Muslim Brotherhood leadership for violent acts in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood had sought publicly to distance itself from violence by its supporters.

Cairo accused the Muslim Brotherhood, which was formally designated as a terrorist organisation in December 2013, of being behind violence and unrest, including the assassination of security officers.

While many of the Brotherhood’s leadership figures remain abroad, mostly in Turkey and Qatar, there are fears the group’s call for violence could galvanise supporters.

Five days before the execution, a Brotherhood operative identified as Hassan Abdullah, 37, planted an explosive device at a crowded square in Giza province. The device was defused before it could be detonated. Abdullah died three days later when he set off a bomb outside his home in the Old City of Cairo as police tried to arrest him. Three police officers and a passer-by were killed.

In a statement February 26, al-Azhar, the country’s senior religious body, warned that the Muslim Brotherhood was following in the footsteps of the Islamic State (ISIS).

“The terrorist Muslim Brotherhood, through the statement, has explicitly admitted it is a group that practises violence and that this is its habit. The group’s miserable and desperate goal is the destruction of the pillars of the state and the [creation] of strife among its sons and chaos that many countries suffer from,” al-Azhar said.

“The Muslim Brotherhood follows the lead of ISIS and other terrorist ‎organisations that spread chaos, implement secret ‎agendas and uselessly try to threaten our security and safety,” the statement added.

The Egyptian security establishment in recent years has limited Brotherhood violence and disbanded several of its affiliated militias. There is little doubt in Cairo that any Brotherhood-instigated violence would be met with a strong retaliation by the state.

Policemen have killed dozens of senior Brotherhood operatives and arrested hundreds of others to stand trial.

Despite public protestations of non-violence, analysts said the Brotherhood has never shied away from using violence to reach its goals. A study by researcher Muneer Adeeb published last October argued that the Brotherhood’s public claims of non-violence are part of a broader strategy.

Adeeb said the biggest threat posed by the Brotherhood was not attacks against the state but its normalisation of extremist views.

“The group became a breeding ground for violence given its extremist views which were published in its books and pamphlets and available on the streets,” the study said.

Analysts warned the recent surge in violence indicates an escalation by the Muslim Brotherhood. While previous attacks focused on security personnel, fears are that future acts would be indiscriminate.

The Abdullah case indicates that the Brotherhood was in the process of escalating attacks before the latest executions. The bomb planted in Giza could have caused a great number of casualties, given the crowds in the area.

“This is by far the most worrying aspect of Brotherhood violence at present,” said Ahmed Kamel al-Beheiri, a researcher from local think-tank Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies. “Targeting areas of civilians’ concentrations will cause losses but also cause ordinary people to hate the Brotherhood even more.”

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