CAIRO — A fugitive leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has denied accusations his group is committing acts of “terrorism” following the coup that toppled the country’s president.
Mohammed el-Beltagy’s address, which aired Tuesday, comes as the Brotherhood plans new demonstrations to defy a crippling security crackdown that has put most of its senior and mid-level leadership behind bars. Among those detained Monday was 25-year-old U.S. citizen Mohamed Soltan, the son of outspoken Brotherhood figure Salah Soltan, family and security officials said.
El-Beltagy, a former lawmaker, is wanted himself on accusations of inciting violence and has been hunted by authorities for nearly three weeks. In a videotaped message aired by Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr, an affiliate of the Qatar-based broadcaster, el-Beltagy said that authorities were trying to turn a “political crisis” into a security problem by accusing his group of orchestrating a terrorism campaign.
Egypt’s media, almost uniformly anti-Brotherhood after the closure of Islamist television stations, have described the crackdown as a “war against terrorism.”
“Don’t be fooled by these lies and deception that aim to label us with terrorism, violence, (and) killing … at a time when the hands of the coup regime are drowned in blood,” el-Beltagy said.
El-Beltagy went into hiding earlier this month after authorities violently broke up protest encampments held by supporters of President Mohammed Morsi, overthrown July 3 by the military after days of mass protests against him. Hundreds died in the crackdown, including el-Beltagy’s daughter.
In retaliation, Morsi supporters attacked police stations, government buildings and churches. Hundreds of Brotherhood members, the group’s top leaders and Morsi supporters were arrested, many accused of orchestrating and taking part in violence.
Airport authorities also said Tuesday that well-known Egyptian cleric Yousef al-Qaradawi, based in Qatar, would be arrested upon entry to the country. The elderly sheik is very close to the Brotherhood and has spoken out vehemently against the country’s military chief who led the coup.
The current bout of violence is the worst in Egypt’s 2 ½ years of turbulent transition. More than 1,000 people, mostly Morsi supporters, were killed in the raids and other violence since mid-August. Violence has waned in the past few days.
An official in the Interior Ministry said Tuesday that 106 security personnel have been killed since Aug. 14 and that more than 900 have been wounded in violence, including soldiers and policemen. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
In the latest round-up of Brotherhood supporters, authorities said they arrested Soltan and three others at the pro-Brotherhood Rassd Network News service’s office in the Cairo suburb of Maadi. Also detained in the group arrest was the manager of the news service, a broadcaster and one of Rassd’s founders.
Soltan, a graduate of Ohio State University, was active online in support of the Brotherhood and had posted a picture of his arm after he was shot during the security raid on the sit-ins two weeks ago. His father is wanted by police on charges he incited violence during speeches.
Police said the group was in possession of plans to spread chaos and violence in the country by inciting splits among the ranks of the army and police and through acts of civil disobedience. Police officials said they confiscated a Thuraya satellite phone, six mobile phones, three laptops and a camera from the group.
A Facebook group managed by his friends and family called “Free Soltan” described him as a “pro-democracy activist.” The administrators of the page say they do not know where he is being held and that they are contacting members of Congress and Senate to push for his release.
“He is a peaceful person and strongly committed to non-violence and social justice,” a posting on the Facebook page said.
Officials at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo could not be immediately reached for comment.
The pro-Morsi camp is planning large new rallies on Friday to press for its demands, including justice for those killed and the “leaders of the coup” be put on trial. Many are still calling for Morsi’s return to power, though a Brotherhood official told The Associated Press on Monday that the group is open for talks only after “confidence-building measures” from the new government.
The size of their rallies has dramatically shrunk in the past week. Islamist groups allied to the Brotherhood have proposed a truce between the interim government and the Morsi camp in which the authorities would end the crackdown and the media campaign in exchange for an end to street protests. Scattered protests continued across the country Tuesday.
Meanwhile Tuesday, an intelligence official said masked militants and snipers attacked the headquarters of military intelligence in the Sinai border town of Rafah. The official said troops responded and injured two of unidentified assailants.
In a separate attack, a stolen ambulance laden with explosives exploded when army troops opened fire at it before it hit a police station in the town of Sheikh Zuweyid near border with Gaza, the official said. The remains of the three attackers’ bodies were found in the wreckage, he said.
The official spoke anonymously in line with regulations.