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Egypt arrests more Brotherhood supporters, more protests anticipated

Friday, 27 December 2013 - 5:51pm IST | Agency: Reuters

Egyptian police arrested dozens more Muslim Brotherhood supporters and deployed across Cairo before Friday prayers, as the government anticipated further protests from the Islamist movement despite having clamped down on dissent.

Security sources said 32 Brotherhood supporters were held in a second wave of arrests since Wednesday, when the government designated the group a terrorist organisation. Security forces were stationed throughout the capital by the beginning of midday prayers and after one person died late on Thursday in street clashes ignited by political tension.

Officials have issued a new round of harsher warnings against anyone taking part in protests in support of the Islamist movement that ran the country until July, saying they will be punished under terrorism laws. Some analysts warn the escalating crackdown on the Brotherhood risks triggering more violence in a country already facing the worst internal strife in its modern history.

The declaration against the Brotherhood came after the government accused the group of carrying out a suicide attack that killed 16 people on Tuesday, the latest in a series of attacks that have raised fears of an Islamist insurrection. The Brotherhood condemned the attack, which a Sinai-based group claimed responsibility for.

The government has warned that anyone taking part in pro-Brotherhood protests face five years in prison. Jail terms for those accused under the terror law can stretch up to life imprisonment. Brotherhood leaders face the death penalty under the law. Police arrested 14 supporters of the Brotherhood in the Cairo suburb of Giza on Friday morning.

The men were accused of participating in recent "riots and violence", state-run newspaper Al-Ahram reported, but a security source told Reuters that the men were arrested for belonging to a terrorist group.

Wednesday's declaration gives authorities wider scope in what has already been a fierce security crackdown against Brotherhood since the army overthrew President Mohamed Mursi in July.

The Brotherhood, which won every election since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in early 2011 and propelled Mursi to power 18 months ago, has been driven underground since the army deposed him following mass protests. Sixteen men were arrested on Friday in the Nile Delta province of Gharbiya, security sources said.

State news agency said that the men were members of the Brotherhood. Another two were arrested in the town of Fayoum, south of Cairo.

The campaign has seen thousands of Brotherhood members and supporters jailed. In spite of the pressure, the group has continued near-daily protests, most recently concentrating its demonstrations at universities, where students have clashed with police.

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.

Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who overthrew Mursi, said on Thursday that Egypt would be "steadfast" in the face of terrorism. Sisi urged citizens to trust the army and the police. "We are capable of moving Egypt toward stability, security, and progress," he said.

(Editing by John Stonestreet)

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