By Sarah El Deeb
CAIRO: A string of attacks killed nine members of Egypt’s security and military forces and hit the country’s main satellite communications station Monday, in an apparent retaliation by Islamic militants a day after more than 50 supporters of the ousted president were killed in clashes with police.
The attacks show a dangerous expansion of targets, including the first strike against civilian infrastructure in the heart of the capital. They also blur the lines between the country’s political instability, continued protests against the military ouster of President Mohammed Morsi, and an insurgency that had previously been largely confined to the northern Sinai Peninsula.
It is also likely to harden positions of the military-backed government and its opponents, making reconciliation more difficult.
“We are at war with them,” said Mohammed Ibrahim, the country’s interior minister in charge of security forces, pointing to militant groups. He suggested the surge in attacks, particularly the targeting of the satellite station— which left minor damage on one of the dishes — was in retaliation for the government crackdown on Sunday’s protests.
“This is an attempt to prove they are still around and are not broken,” he told the Associated Press, without specifying which groups are behind the attacks. “They also aim to confuse, to distract” security forces.
In another development Monday likely to give momentum to the government crackdown on Islamists, a panel of judges recommended the dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party, the Freedom and Justice Party, which was registered months after the 2011 ouster of autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
The judges’ recommendation said the party represents an outlawed group. The recommendations will be delivered to a Cairo court reviewing a case demanding the party’s dissolution on Oct. 19.
Another court had already ordered a ban on the Brotherhood’s activities, and froze its assets, a decision currently reviewed by a government-appointed committee.
Ashraf Badreddin, a member of the FJP, said authorities had already shut down offices of the party long before a court decision, telling Doha-based satellite broadcaster Al-Jazeera Mubasher Masr that the recommendation was “politicized.”
At least 2,000 of the group’s leading and mid-level members have been detained, and most of them will face trial on charges that range from murder and inciting violence to abuse of power. Hundreds of others died in a violent crackdown on protests and sit-ins held by Morsi supporters.
Authorities are blaming pro-Morsi supporters of seeking to create chaos to discredit the new government.
Pro-Morsi supporters deny they resort to violence.
Ahmed Mostafa, a Brotherhood student leader, said there are plans to hold rallies at universities this week to denounce the killings and the military leaders, saying authorities are engaged in a campaign to pull his group and supporters toward violence. There are also calls for protest in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
He dismissed accusations that Islamists are behind the surge in attacks.
“We reaffirm that peacefulness of our actions is stronger than weapons,” he said.
Meanwhile, a suicide bomber struck a security headquarters in the town of el-Tor, in southern Sinai, on Monday, killing three policemen and wounding 55 others.
In another attack, masked gunmen pulled alongside a pickup truck full of troops on patrol near the Suez Canal and opened fire, killing six soldiers, security officials said.