Muslim Brotherhood suffers blow from security crackdown

Gehad El-Haddad: spoke of breakdown of discipline. Picture: Contributed
Gehad El-Haddad: spoke of breakdown of discipline. Picture: Contributed
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EGYPT’S Muslim Brotherhood and its allies suffered a heavy blow from the state security crackdown, their central co-
ordination has been lost and the bloodshed means anger is now “beyond control”, the group have said.

The comments by spokesman Gehad El-Haddad yesterday, pointed to the depth of the crisis facing the movement that only six weeks ago controlled the presidency but is now struggling to keep a grip over its support base with hundreds killed by the police in 24 hours.

Declining to give his location as he spoke by Skype, Mr Haddad said he did not know where all of the group’s leaders were following the Wednesday attack on two protest camps that had become hubs of opposition to the army-backed government.

“After the blows and arrests and killings that we are facing emotions are too high to be guided by anyone,” said Mr Haddad.

The remarks signalled the risk of deposed president Mohamed Morsi’s Islamist sympathisers, severed from their leadership, turning to more violent methods as anger builds and leaders who have long espoused peaceful activism are rounded up. The state is hardening its rhetoric by the day, a sign the Brotherhood may get no relief any time soon.

The government yesterday said it would fight “terrorist acts” by “elements of the Brotherhood organisation”, invoking language used to describe militant groups such as al-Qaeda.

Dismissing such statements as part of a government propaganda campaign, the Brotherhood says it remains committed to peaceful resistance against the military overthrow of Mr Morsi.

However, there has been growing concern that Islamists angered by the failure of democracy would turn to militancy of the type Egypt has witnessed in its recent past.

“The Brotherhood does not have the discipline they used to enjoy, mainly because their rank and file and other Islamists are so riled up, with all the violence,” said Yasser El-Shimy, Egypt ­analyst at the International Crisis Group.

“Whatever remains of the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood finds it difficult to do anything.”

The Brotherhood has rallied smaller Islamist parties into an alliance that includes more hardline groups including Gamaa Islamiya, which once led a violent campaign against the state. But that alliance, always loose, now has little control.

“There’s no central plan or co-ordination,” Mr Haddad said, asked when and where the alliance would hold its next protest.

“It’s beyond control now. There was always that worry. With every massacre that increases,” Mr Haddad said, describing the anger among opponents of the military.

“The real danger comes when groups of people, angry by the loss of loved ones, start mobilising on the ground.” Mr Haddad said some Brotherhood leaders were arrested before Wednesday’s bloodshed. Others went missing after the raids.