Hunt continues after Egypt recovers Kerdasa
Egyptian security forces patrol after attacks. [AFP]
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Egyptian security forces were hunting for armed supporters of deposed President Mohammad Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood Friday after retaking control of a town near Cairo in a crackdown on Islamists.
Security sources said 85 people had been arrested since troops and police stormed Kerdasa Thursday, but the area had not yet been stabilized. State television said dozens of weapons including rocket-propelled grenades had been seized.
Islamist sympathies run deep in Kerdasa and hostility to the authorities has grown since the army overthrew and imprisoned Morsi on July 3.
Already, Al-Qaeda-inspired militants based in the Sinai Peninsula near Israel have been attacking security forces in the area almost daily and slowly expanding their operations, most spectacularly with a suicide attack on the interior minister in Cairo.
The army has responded with air and ground attacks.
The violence has revived memories of the 1990s, when an Islamist insurgency featuring high-profile attacks on Westerners and senior government officials ravaged the tourist industry, one of the pillars of the economy.
A police general was shot dead during the Kerdasa operation and at least nine policemen and soldiers were wounded by a hand grenade in clashes with militants Thursday.
A funeral service Friday for the police general who was killed was televised live on state television, which ran a caption beneath reading “Egypt confronts terrorism.”
Security forces had been absent from the area since Aug. 14, when 11 police officers were killed as Kerdasa’s main police station was hit by rocket-propelled grenades and set on fire.
The attack was part of a wave of Islamist violence that broke out in response to the smashing of pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo in which hundreds of Morsi supporters were killed.
A police officer at the scene Friday said around 150 arrest warrants had been issued for people suspected of the attack on the police station or of an attack on a church in Kerdasa.
Army-backed authorities, who say they are waging a “war on terrorism,” have arrested top Brotherhood leaders to try to neutralize one of the Middle East’s most influential Islamist movements. The mostly state-controlled media have portrayed the Brotherhood as bloodthirsty enemies of the state.
Despite mounting pressure on the Brotherhood, the group still stages regular protests in the hope that Egyptians will turn against the military.
But army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, who ousted Morsi, is highly popular, and few doubt that, if he chose to run for president, he would win.
Sporadic clashes erupted after Friday prayers as Morsi supporters demonstrated in several cities.
In the capital’s Dokki district, two people were wounded when a pro-Morsi march came under attack, witness Hussein al-Gindi said.
An AFP correspondent saw several streets in the district littered with rocks and broken glass and two army tanks and police vehicles in the aftermath of the clashes.
Gindi said he saw two civilians wounded but that it was unclear how the clashes erupted.
Two people were wounded at a demonstration in clashes between Morsi supporters and opponents in the city of Suez, security officials said.
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