Maggie Michael?and Sarah El Deeb
CAIRO: Egypt’s military-backed interim government declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization Wednesday, intensifying its campaign of arrests and prosecutions targeting its members and tightening the noose on the group’s network of charities and businesses.
The unprecedented executive decision likely ends any chance of reconciliation between the government and the 85-year-old Brotherhood, still Egypt’s most organized political group. It marks a stunning reversal of fortunes for the long-outlawed organization that saw member Mohammed Morsi reach Egypt’s highest office in the country’s first democratic election, only to be ousted in a popularly backed military coup in July. And it takes a step that not even autocrat Hosni Mubarak took in his nearly 30-year rule.
Hossam Eissa, deputy prime minister and minister of higher education, read the government’s declaration, saying the decision was in response to Tuesday’s deadly bombing in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura which killed 16 people and wounded more than 100.
Although Eissa and the government offered no proof of the Brotherhood’s involvement, the accusation instilled in the public mind the image of the group as being behind the surge in violent attacks.
The Brotherhood has denied being responsible for the Mansoura attack. Earlier Wednesday, an al-Qaida-inspired group called Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, or the Champions of Jerusalem, said it was behind the suicide bombing to avenge the “shedding of innocent Muslim blood” at the hands of Egypt’s “apostate regime” — a reference to the security forces’ crackdown on Islamists following the coup.
Brotherhood members dismissed the government label Wednesday, promising their protests against Morsi’s ouster would continue.
Ahmed el-Borai, the minister of social solidarity, told reporters that the decision means demonstrations by the group will also be banned. He said members who withdraw from the group “will be pardoned.”