US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday expressed widespread concern over the military-backed Egyptian government’s crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, days after the once ruling group was designated a terrorist organization.
During a phone conversation with Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy on Thursday, Kerry condemned Tuesday’s suicide bombing in Mansoura that killed 16 people and the Thursday bombing that wounded five, but “expressed concern about the interim Egyptian government’s December 25 terrorist designation of the Muslim Brotherhood, and recent detentions and arrests,” according to a statement by State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
Kerry and Fahmy “agreed that there can be no place for violence in Egypt and that the Egyptian people deserve peace and calm,” Psaki said.
But the secretary of state also “underscored the need for an inclusive political process across the political spectrum that respects the fundamental human rights of all Egyptians in order to achieve political stability and democratic change.”
A US official told Reuters that Egypt was going “way too far” in the crackdown, adding that the Obama administration had no intention of taking any action against Cairo in response, or following suit in labeling the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.
On Thursday, Egypt’s security authorities launched a sweep of arrests of Muslim Brotherhood members and warned that holding a leadership post in the group could now be grounds for the death penalty after it was officially declared a terrorist organization, stepping up the government’s confrontation with its top political nemesis.
The announcement came as a bomb exploded in a busy intersection in Cairo Thursday morning, hitting a bus and wounding five people. Though small, the blast raised fears that a campaign of violence by Islamic militants that for months has targeted police and the military could turn to civilians in retaliation for the stepped up crackdown.
On Wednesday, Egypt’s military-backed interim government declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group, criminalizing all its activities, its financing and even membership to the group from which the country’s ousted president hails.
The announcement is a dramatic escalation of the fight between the government and group, which has waged near-daily protests since the July 3 popularly backed military coup that toppled President Mohammed Morsi.
Hossam Eissa, the Minister of Higher Education, read out the cabinet statement after long meeting, saying: “The cabinet has declared the Muslim Brotherhood group and its organization as a terrorist organization.”
He said that the decision was in response to Tuesday’s deadly bombing targeting a police headquarters in a Nile Delta city which killed 16 people and wounded more than 100. The Brotherhood has denied being responsible for Mansoura attack and an al-Qaiea inspired group has claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing on Wednesday.
“Egypt was horrified from north to south by the hideous crime committed by the Muslim Brotherhood group,” Eissa said. “This was in context of dangerous escalation to violence against Egypt and Egyptians [and] a clear declaration by the Muslim Brotherhood group that it is still knows nothing but violence.”
“It’s not possible for Egypt the state nor Egypt the people to submit to the Muslim Brotherhood terrorism,” he added.