Saturday, March 8, 2014
By Hamza Hendawi / The Associated Press
(Continued from page 1)
Marvel Merrd, 11, shows her support on her forehead as more than 300 Coptic Christians from Saint Mary & Archangel Michael Coptic Orthodox Church in Houston and other Coptic parishes demonstrate in support of the Egyptian Military in Egypt Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013. They believe Coptic Christians in Egypt are being persecuted by the fundamentalists.
Security forces fired tear gas into the truck in efforts to free the badly beaten officer, the officials said, adding that the people killed died from suffocation. Those officials also spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.
However, the officials' version of event contradicted reports about the incident carried by state media. The official website of state television reported that the deaths took place after security forces clashed with militants near the prison and detainees came under fire while trying to escape. The official MENA state news agency also said the trucks came under attack from gunmen.
State media also said the people killed and the gunmen belonged to the Brotherhood. The officials who spoke to AP said some of the detainees belonged to the Brotherhood, while others didn't. The differences in the accounts could not be immediately reconciled.
The Brotherhood said in a statement that it blamed the military chief, el-Sissi, and Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim who is in charge of the police, for the attack Sunday. The group also called for an international inquiry into the deaths.
Along with the state of emergency imposed after Wednesday's crackdown on the pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo and ensuing street clashes across the country, the military-backed interim government has also begun taking harsher measures to cripple the Brotherhood.
Security forces arrested hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members early Sunday in raids on their homes in different cities, aimed at disrupting planned rallies to support Morsi. The Cabinet also held an emergency meeting to consider banning the group.
A possible ban — which authorities say would be implemented over the group's use of violence — would be a repeat of the decades-long struggle between the state and the Brotherhood. It also would drain the group's financial resources and allow for mass arrests of its members. That likely would diminish the chances of a negotiated solution to the crisis and push the group again underground.
The Brotherhood has shown no signs of backing down though.
Under the banner of an anti-coup alliance, the group held protests Sunday, though many appeared smaller in scale than others held in recent days. In the coastal city of Alexandria, protesters clashed with residents. In the southern city of Assiut, security forces fired tear gas to disperse hundreds rallying in front of a mosque.
"They think they can end the movement," said Muslim Brotherhood senior member Saad Emara. "The more killings, the more people join us."
However, the government blames Islamists for series of attacks on churches and police stations, increasing public anger against the group.
In his first public appearance since last Wednesday, el-Sissi spoke at length in an hour-long speech Sunday about the motives behind ousting Morsi. The general said the Islamist president exploited democracy to monopolize power. He again said the military's action "protected Egyptians from civil war," despite the ongoing violence on the streets.
"We will not stand by silently watching the destruction of the country and the people or the torching the nation and terrorizing the citizens," el-Sissi said in a speech aired on state television. "I am not threatening anyone ... If the goal is to destroy the country and the people, no!"
The general said that the military didn't seek power but instead "have the honor to protect the people's will — which is much dearer (than) ruling Egypt."