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Chuck Hagel Voiced Concern to Sisi About the Political Climate in Egypt, Police Crack Down on Protesters Continue

December 30, 2013



Pentagon chief concerned about Egypt's political climate

WASHINGTON, Dec. 29, 2013 (Xinhua) --

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Sunday voiced concern about the political climate in Egypt as the Arab country braces for a constitutional referendum next month amid growing violence.

In a phone conversation with his Egyptian counterpart General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, the Pentagon chief discussed "the balance between security and freedom," and stressed the role of "political inclusiveness" in Egypt's ongoing transition, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a readout of the talks.

Hagel "also expressed concerns about the political climate ahead of the constitutional referendum, including the continued enforcement of a restrictive demonstrations law," Kirby said.

Egypt has witnessed growing violence and a deteriorating security situation since Mohamed Morsi, the country's first elected president, was ousted by the military in early July.

The interim government in Egypt approved a new law last month regulating demonstrations in the country and mandating security forces to use rubber bullets and birdshot to disperse protesters.

The government declared the Muslim Brotherhood, to which Morsi belongs, a "terrorist group" on Wednesday, after Cairo blamed the group for a Tuesday bomb attack on the police headquarters in Mansoura city that killed at least 16 people.

The constitutional referendum has been scheduled for Jan. 14-15.

Editor: An

Egyptian police crack down on Brotherhood supporters

France 24, December 28, 2013

At least five people were killed and hundreds arrested across Egypt as police clashed with Muslim Brotherhood supporters on Friday amid a ramped up crackdown on the movement, which comes after the government listed it as a terrorist group.

The violence broke out after Friday prayers in Cairo and at least seven provinces around the country.

In two incidents in the southern provinces of Assiut and Qena, witnesses said, small rallies quickly dispersed after pro-government civilians mounting pickup trucks fired their machine guns into the air, driving protesters away.

An 18-year-old Brotherhood supporter was shot dead in the Nile Delta city of Damietta. A man was killed in Minya, a bastion of Islamist support south of Cairo, and another person was killed in the capital, the interior ministry said, without providing further details.

A young man was also reported killed during clashes in the southern city of Aswan, where Brotherhood supporters burned two police cars.

Police fired birdshot and tear gas at student protesters at Al-Azhar university's Cairo campus.

Gunfire was also heard in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, where demonstrators threw fireworks and rocks at police who used teargas, a Reuters witness said.


Security forces detained at least 265 Brotherhood supporters nationwide, including at least 28 women, the ministry also said.

The widening crackdown has increased tensions in a country suffering the worst internal strife of its modern history since the army deposed Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July.

Security forces have killed hundreds of his supporters and lethal attacks on soldiers and police have become commonplace.

The Brotherhood was declared a terrorist organisation after 16 people were killed in a suicide attack on a police station on Tuesday, although the group condemned the attack and it was claimed by a radical faction based in the Sinai Peninsula.

The Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies had called for protests in response to the government decision.

A number of police officers were injured in the clashes, the interior ministry said. A senior police officer in the city of Minya was injured during clashes between police and demonstrators that began when Brotherhood supporters threw stones at a local police station and attempted to break in, state-run newspaper Al-Ahram reported.

Jail sentences

Some analysts say Egypt faces a protracted spell of attacks by Islamist radicals as well as eruptions of civil strife.

A student supporter of the Brotherhood was killed late on Thursday in what the interior ministry described as a melee between supporters and opponents of the Brotherhood in Cairo.

On Friday, a furniture store was set on fire by residents of a Cairo suburb after police stormed inside and arrested three employees, having received complaints that the men had firearms and were Brotherhood members.

The government has said the violence will not derail a political transition plan whose next step is a mid-January referendum on a new constitution.

Officials have issued a new round of harsher warnings against anyone taking part in protests in support of the Brotherhood, saying they will be punished under anti-terrorism laws.

Jail terms for those convicted under the terrorism law can stretch up to life imprisonment and Brotherhood leaders face the death penalty.

Kerry 'concerned'

US Secretary of State John Kerry called Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy on Thursday and "expressed concern" about the terrorist designation of the Muslim Brotherhood and recent detentions, the State Department said.

The Brotherhood, which won every election since Hosni Mubarak was toppled in 2011, has been driven underground since the army deposed the freely elected Morsi in July.

Thousands of Brotherhood members and supporters have since been jailed. Morsi and other top leaders are also behind bars.

Despite the pressure, the Brotherhood has continued near-daily protests against the Egyptian authorities.

In a statement condemning the government's freezing of the funds of Islamist charity groups, the Brotherhood accused the government of spreading Christianity by empowering Coptic Christian charities over Islamic ones.


Bomb blast strikes military building north of Cairo

France 24, December 29, 2013

A bomb went off near a military intelligence facility north of Cairo on Sunday, wounding four soldiers, security officials said.

The explosion occurred in Sharqiya province in the Nile Delta, and destroyed the front compound wall of the building, officials said in a statement.

It is the third bomb attack in Egypt in less than a week: on Tuesday, a suicide car bomber killed 15 people at a police compound in Mansoura, north of Cairo, and on Thursday, a bomb in Cairo wounded five people on a bus.

In a statement, the army called Sunday's attack “a continuation of cowardly terrorist acts”.

The day after the attack in Mansoura, which was claimed by al Qaeda-inspired jihadists, Egypt's military-installed authorities accused ousted president Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and declared the group a "terrorist organisation".

But the Brotherhood said in a statement that “it is innocent of any violent incident that has (been) or will be committed”.

The “terrorist” designation means hundreds of thousands of members of the Islamist organisation could face prison sentences if they stage protests or are found carrying Brotherhood recordings or literature.

Since Morsi's ouster by the military on July 3, security forces have launched a crackdown on the group, resulting in more than 1,000 deaths and thousands of arrests of the toppled president's backers.  

Blast near intelligence HQ in Egypt's Sharqiya injures 4

CAIRO, Dec. 29, 2013 (Xinhua) --

At least four soldiers were wounded in a huge car bomb explosion near the military intelligence headquarters in Egypt's Sharqiya governorate, state TV reported Sunday.

The front walls of the building have been smashed, the report said, adding that the injured have been taken to the nearest hospital, and an explosion team has arrived at the scene to defuse possible other bombs.

Meanwhile, state-run Ahram website quoted a military source as saying that an explosive device planted in the backyard of the military compound in Belbeis district caused the blast.

No death was reported so far, but the TV said two of the injured are in serious conditions.

"Sunday's blast had partially destroyed the back wall of the building," army spokesman Ahmed Ali said, adding "the blast is the continuation of a series of coward terrorist operations committed by the black terrorism and the strife group against the Egyptian people, the military institution and the state's vital objectives. "

This is the second explosion in a few days hitting a security headquarters in Nile Delta cities. At least 16 people were killed and more than 100 injured in Daqahliya's Mansoura city on Tuesday.

Following Tuesday's attack, the government declared the Muslim Brotherhood, from which ousted president Mohamed Morsi hails, as a terrorist organization, despite the Brotherhood's condemnation against the accident. Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, a Sinai-based jihadist group, has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The army-installed government's decision stirred violent protests on Friday that killed five people.

Editor: Yang Yi

Egypt security forces clash with Morsi supporters, 3 killed

BEIJING, Dec. 28, 2013 (Xinhuanet) --

Egyptian security forces have clashed with hundreds of supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi around the country. Egypt’s Interior Ministry said three people have been killed and more than 200 arrested, including women.

Riot police fired tear gas at protesters chanting against the military and the police at the Islamic Al-Azhar University in Cairo.

The night before, one person was killed when similar clashes broke out near the dormitory of the university.

Authorities have tightened security measures in the capital after Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and its allies renewed calls for mass rallies.

The protests came as a defiance of the interim government’s latest move labelling the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation. The announcement was meant to further cripple the group, ahead of a key vote on a draft constitution mid-January, seen by the interim government as a milestone in the transition plan.


1 killed in clashes in Upper Egypt

CAIRO, Dec. 27, 2013 (Xinhua) --

At least one was killed in clashes during protests staged by supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi in Upper Egypt's Minya governorate on Friday, official Al- Ahram Online reported, quoting a Health Ministry official.

Twelve people, including four policemen, were injured during similar clashes across the country, Khaled al-Khatib, head of the Emergency Central Administration, added.

Tension escalated between security forces and supporters of the ousted Islamist leader, who took to the streets on Friday to express condemnation of the interim government's recent decision to declare the Muslim Brotherhood as "a terrorist group."

At least 147 people affiliated with the Brotherhood in eight provinces, including eight women, were arrested while wielding Molotov cocktails, guns and cartouche based on Article 86 of the Penal Code.

The law stipulates five years' term for participants in protests organized by "a terrorist group." The perpetrators' punishment may go up to execution or life imprisonment "if terrorism is one of the means used to achieve or carry out the purposes of the group."

The arrested protesters have been accused of stirring up riots and blocking roads.

Meanwhile, similar protests have been staged around Al-Azhar University dormitory in Cairo where the police fired tear gas and used water canons to disperse pro-Morsi students who pelted the forces with stones.

Islamists also took to the streets in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, Nile Delta's Damietta, Upper Egypt's Minya and Fayoum.

During Friday's protests, a police vehicle was set ablaze on the Ring Road leading to the Pyramids area in Giza according to the Egyptian state TV.

The protesters raised the four-finger sign that denounces the dispersal operation against two pro-Morsi sit-ins in mid-August that killed about 1,000 people.

Other Brotherhood supporters carried signs reading, "Down with military rule!" and "Savage policemen!"

Editor: Yamei Wang


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