Egypt vows 'full force' against protesters

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 January, 2014, 5:36am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 January, 2014, 7:19am

Egypt vowed yesterday to confront the Muslim Brotherhood with "full force" as the Islamists called for further rallies, a day after clashes between protesters and police killed at least 17.

The Brotherhood, which demands the reinstatement of ousted president Mohammed Mursi, has organised near-daily protests despite its designation last month as a terrorist organisation. Friday's violence was the deadliest in almost three months, after Mursi supporters rallied in the thousands.

The "terrorist" designation carries harsh prison sentences for members arrested during demonstrations or leaders of the influential Islamist movement.

"The organisation continues its criminal activities despite its designation as a terrorist group," said the government, installed by the military after Mursi's overthrow in July.

The state "will confront the activities of this terrorist group with full force", it said.

Police arrested 258 suspected protesters during the clashes, security officials said.

The crackdown prompted another diplomatic row between Egypt and Qatar, which had supported Mursi and criticised on Friday night Cairo's treatment of the Brotherhood and protesters.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said yesterday it had summoned Qatar's ambassador in Cairo in protest at Doha's criticisms, and to object to Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera's coverage of the unrest.

Qatar, a main backer of the Muslim Brotherhood in the region, had condemned the organisation's designation as a terrorist group. The decision was "a precursor to a shoot-to-kill policy against demonstrators", said a Qatari Foreign Ministry statement, published by the official Qatar News Agency.

More than 1,000 people, mostly Islamists, have been killed in street clashes in Egypt, and thousands have been imprisoned, in the crackdown on Mursi's supporters after his ousting.

The military is also battling an Islamist militant campaign in the Sinai peninsula that has killed scores of soldiers and policemen since Mursi's overthrow in July.

The Brotherhood was blacklisted as a terrorist group after a suicide car bombing of a police headquarters north of Cairo, which was claimed by a jihadist group in Sinai.

The Brotherhood has called for a surge in rallies ahead of the second hearing in Mursi's trial for inciting the killing of protesters during his turbulent year in power. Mursi also faces trial for allegedly colluding with militants to carry out attacks and prison breaks in early 2011.