CAIRO: Supporters of Egypt’s deposed president Mohammed Mursi vowed more rallies and called for marches on Friday as police arrested another senior Islamist in an ongoing crackdown on Mursi loyalists.
The call for further protests came as the interior ministry announced the arrest yesterday of Muslim Brotherhood politician, Mohamed Al Beltagi in a village outside Cairo.
Elsewhere in Egypt, police arrested 28 Islamists, the official MENA news agency reported.
After arresting much of the movement’s leadership, the police have begun rounding up mid-level operatives around the country.
The interior ministry also warned yesterday that live ammunition will be used on protesters who attack public institutions.
Decapitated and harried by the police crackdown, the Islamist movement pressing for Mursi’s reinstatement has only been able to muster several thousand protesters in recent rallies.
“We welcome any calls for calm, but we will continue protesting in a peaceful manner,” Salah Gomaa, a member of the Anti-Coup Alliance led by Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood, told a news conference.
The Islamist coalition has held almost daily rallies following a deadly police operation on August 14 to disperse their two protest camps in Cairo.
More than 1,000 people were killed in the operation and ensuing violence, and police have rounded up more than 2,000 Islamists, according to security sources.
In contrast to last Friday’s relatively low-key security arrangements, the interior ministry issued a statement yesterday warning protesters that police would be armed with live bullets and ready to confront any attempts to undermine security or “assault government, police or religious facilities”.
“In light of calls by wanted leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood for protests on Friday June 30... the interior ministry affirms its forces’ readiness to confront any violation of the law,” it said.
State television channels have described the Brotherhood as a “terrorist” group and accused it of violence. The Brotherhood says it is still committed to peaceful resistance despite relentless pressure from security forces.
Dozens of Mursi supporters marching in central Cairo yesterday were set upon by another group who favour the military. Witnesses said security forces resorted to firing in the air to separate the groups before a full-scale brawl broke out.
A nightly curfew has brought an eerie calm to the capital’s streets, where people usually sit in cafes until the early hours.
The curfew is hurting business but, exhausted by two-and-a-half years of turmoil, many Egyptians are yearning for a return to normalcy, even if it means accepting the military’s influence on politics.
In a statement, the Anti-Coup Alliance called for the release of prisoners and demanded a probe into the violence over the past month.
Police have already arrested the Brotherhood’s supreme guide Mohamed Badie and much of the senior leadership.
Badie and his deputies are standing trial on charges of involvement in the murder of protesters who stormed the Brotherhood’s headquarters on June 30.
Mursi himself is being held at a secret location and faces charges related to his 2011 escape from prison and of inciting the death and torture of protesters.