Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie was arrested shortly after midnight in northern Cairo on Tuesday, a significant development in the crackdown of Egypt’s army-backed rulers on Islamists.
Ministry spokesman Abdel-Fattah Osman said in a television interview that Badie was hiding in a residential apartment in Cairo’s Nasr City district near Rabaa El-Adaweya Mosque, where hundreds of Brotherhood supporters were killed when police dispersed a six-week-old sit-in last Wednesday.
Photos circulated on social media showed Badie, dressed in a traditional white robe, sitting between two policemen wearing bulletproof vests in what looked like a police van.
Egyptian satellite channel ONTV later broadcast live footage showing the 70-year-old sitting on a couch in an unidentified location after being captured. A policeman holding a rifle was seen standing next to him.
Badie, the highest authority and spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, has become the latest leader of the Islamist group to be arrested. The Brotherhood fell from grace just one year after Mohamed Morsi became Egypt’s first freely elected president, and is now facing one of the worst phases of its 85-year-old history.
Morsi, Egypt’s first Islamist president, was propelled to power by the Brotherhood in June 2012 but was deposed by the army one year later following mammoth protests against his rule, which was marred by economic hardship and repeated confrontations with the opposition.
Morsi, who has been held incommunicado since his ouster, was slapped with another 15-day detention on Monday pending investigations into charges of involvement in the violent attacks on demonstrators outside the presidential palace in December 2012.
He is also facing charges of "collaboration with Palestinian Islamist faction Hamas to undertake aggressive acts" and "plotting attacks on a jail" where he was held during the 2011 18-day uprising which ousted his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak.
Brotherhood deputy leader Khairat El-Shater, former Supreme Guide Mahdi Akef and Saad El-Katatni, head of the group’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), are also in jail. Six Brotherhood leaders, including El-Shater and Badie, are facing trial on charges of inciting the murder of protesters at the group’s headquarters in the Cairo district of Moqattam.
Other Brotherhood leaders, including Mohamed El-Beltagy and Essam El-Erian, are still at large. Some prominent Islamists were also arrested in Egypt, including Mohamed El-Zawahiri, brother of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman El-Zawahiri.
One day after the army overthrew Morsi on 3 July, reports said Badie was captured by police in the northern city of Marsa Matrouh near the Libyan border.
However, the Brotherhood swiftly denied the widely circulated rumour and, one day later, Badie made his first public appearance following the army’s intervention.
Addressing the group’s supporters at the Rabaa El-Adaweya rally, he struck a defiant tone but has not been seen in public since then. He could not attend the funeral of his son Ammar Badie, who was killed on Friday in clashes between Morsi supporters and police forces in Ramses, downtown Cairo.
Badie was elected as the Brotherhood Supreme Guide in January 2010, becoming the group’s eighth head after succeeding Mahdi Akef.
Morsi critics accused him of being Egypt’s de facto ruler during the past year. Chants of “down with the Supreme Guide rule” were common during protests against the Brotherhood