Egyptian forces clear Brotherhood camps

by our Arab Affairs correspondent

VIOLENCE returned to Cairo on Wednesday when the security police moved in to sweep the streets clear of the Muslim Brotherhood protest camps that had paralysed parts of the Egyptian capital for weeks. Armed police and bulldozers moved to dismantle the two tent “cities” at dawn following repeated warnings by the army- led government to abandon their protest or face inevitable action to clear the streets.

Two policemen and at least 15 civilians are reported to have been killed as Egyptian security forces moved in to clear two camps occupied by supporters of deposed president Mohammed Morsi but the Brothers call it a “massacre” and claim the numbers are much higher.

Backed up by armoured cars, the police moved in, firing volleys of tear-gas into the ranks of the Brothers on their make-shift barricades. Police fired into the air to disperse the mob after snipers allegedly opened fire on the security forces. As the police advanced Brotherhood supporters fled to Cairo University and the nearby zoo while the security forces moved in to mop up remaining resistance in the surrounding streets. Two hundred Brotherhood protesters at both camps have been arrested for possessing firearms, bladed weapons and gas canisters.

The Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies had been staging two sit-ins, at Rabaa Al-Adawiya in the Nasr City district of Cairo and Al-Nahda Square in Giza, as well as daily rallies demanding Morsi’s reinstatement since his popularly-backed army coup on 3rd July. Most of the Brotherhood leaders, including the former president, are behind bars, and many more have been arrested this week.

Two weeks ago the military-backed interim government said it would use “all necessary measures” to break up the two sprawling protest camps. General Sisi, the commander in chief of the Egyptian armed forces, and the de facto leader of the “interim” government, claimed that the massive pro-government rally he called on 27th July showed that the people want security forces to take a tough stand against pro-Morsi protesters.

The “interim” leaders, mainly civilian “technocrats” plus a couple of Nasserists and liberals hand picked by the army, say they want a dialogue with the Brotherhood. But they’ve also made it clear that Morsi is never going to get his old job back and that his detention or release is now a matter for the courts to decide.

Last month Salah Adli, the general secretary of the Egyptian Communist Party said: “What is happening in Egypt now is not only a confrontation of the Muslim Brotherhood, and their allies among the forces of the religious right, with the security institutions of the state. They are in fact confronting the Egyptian people of all sects and currents as well as all state institutions, including the judiciary, media and culture.

“In neighbourhoods and villages, the Muslim Brotherhood will be now confronting the masses of the Egyptian people, as they have certainly lost the support of large segments of the people during the last two years. But the army and security forces will have an important role in confronting their armed terrorist militias.

“In short, we see that what has happened is a big defeat for the project of the religious right in general, and not only for the project of the Muslim Brotherhood. It will have major implications in the region in the coming period”