Violence tied to shift in Brotherhood tactics

Friday 03/07/2015
Army trucks carry Egyptian tanks in a military convoy in El Arish, Egypt’s northern Sinai Peninsula.

Cairo - The assassination of Egypt’s chief prosecutor Hisham Barakat in a bomb attack led to calls for a tougher crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, although the group has not been officially accused of carrying out the attack.

More than 17 soldiers died in the following two days in attacks claimed by the Islamic State (ISIS) in the Sinai peninsula.

“Young Brotherhood members publicly announce that they have opted for violence,” Sameh Eid, an expert on Islamist movements, said. “This operation represents a real shift in the tactics of these members.”

Brotherhood Deputy Supreme Guide Mahmoud Ghozlan said re­cently that junior Brotherhood members were responsible for at­tacks on the streets. These junior members, sources say, organised internal elections a few months ago and picked new leaders who advo­cate violent confrontation with the authorities.

New Brotherhood spokesman Mohamed Montasser talks of the need to use violence in confronting the crackdown on his organisation.

Despite denial of responsibility by some in the Islamist organisa­tion, others were less categorical. The day Barakat was killed, Ahmed al-Mughir, a junior Brotherhood figure seemed to condone the violence. “To the next chief pros­ecutor: Your booby-trapped car is ready,” he wrote on Twitter.

Barakat was the most senior Egyptian government figure to be assassinated since the ouster of Muhammad Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood-aligned former presi­dent. Appointed in July 2013, Barakat ordered the dispersal of two pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo and Giza province the following month.

Mohamed Habib, a former Broth­erhood second-in-command, wrote June 29th on Twitter that by assassinating the chief prosecutor, the Brotherhood has nobody else to blame.

“I expect the government’s re­action to be both strong and deci­sive,” Habib wrote. A few hours lat­er, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said his country would use the law to avenge Barakat’s death.

“The chief prosecutor was Egypt’s voice and those who at­tacked on Monday wanted to si­lence this voice,” Sisi said during Barakat’s funeral. “Nobody can si­lence Egypt’s voice.”

Barakat’s killing was followed by additional attacks across Egypt. On June 30th, bomb attacks rocked Egypt’s provinces and the coastal city of Alexandria. On July 1st, more than 60 security and army personnel were killed in coordinat­ed assaults on security checkpoints in Sinai. Attacks took place as Egypt marked the second anniver­sary of the June 30th uprising that led to Morsi’s ouster by the army. The crackdown by authorities on the Muslim Brotherhood has been severely criticised by rights groups.

Political analyst Abdel Monem Fawzi links the surge in violence as well to the scheduled August 6th opening of a new waterway along the Suez Canal.

“These attacks always occur ahead of any major events in this country,” Fawzi said. “The aim is to sabotage work done by the govern­ment for improving the living con­ditions of the people and moving the country forward.”