CAIRO — Egyptian authorities detained more than 60 people associated with the Muslim Brotherhood in less than 24 hours, including relatives of the group’s leaders, officials said Wednesday.
The crackdown on the group, from which ousted president Mohamed Morsi hails, started shortly after the July 3 coup. It intensified this month after security forces cleared out two of the Brotherhood’s sit-ins, killing hundreds and sparking unrest that claimed more than 1,000 lives in a few days. The Interior Ministry says that more than 100 police officers and soldiers also have been killed since mid-August.
The local news media, in close step with the interim leadership that took over after Morsi’s ouster, have repeatedly described the actions of the Brotherhood and its supporters as acts of terrorism. Many Brotherhood officials have been charged with inciting violence. Security forces have arrested much of the group’s senior and mid-level leadership, while other members remain in hiding.
Some in Egypt fear that the Brotherhood’s once-powerful political party and its allies could be barred from politics and be forced underground again.
In an interview late Tuesday with the Arabic satellite channel MBC Masr, interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi said dissolving the group is not a solution and warned against making dramatic decisions during turbulent times. He suggested that it is better that the government monitor political parties rather than force any to operate secretly, as the Brotherhood had done for decades.
But in a widening campaign, police have started going after relatives of Brotherhood members, including the son of Khairat el-Shater, a Brotherhood deputy and financier charged in relation to the killings of protesters outside the group’s Cairo headquarters in June. A U.S. citizen, the son of a fugitive Brotherhood figure, also was detained this week.
It was not clear why police detained Shater’s 23-year-old son. Officials said Wednesday that police had arrested Saad el-Shater and that he had threatened to release documents allegedly showing ties between his father and President Obama.
The brother-in-law of fugitive Brotherhood leader Mohamed Beltagy also was arrested in the latest sweep, on charges that he incited protests aimed at toppling the military-backed interim government. Police officials said Saeed Zaki Eissa and two others known to be affiliated with the Brotherhood were detained in the port city of Alexandria after prosecutors ordered their arrest.
The security clampdown appears to have weakened Brotherhood-led protests, which have been much smaller across the country this past week. There are protests planned for Friday and calls for civil disobedience.