Egyptian police captured senior Muslim Brotherhood official Mohammed El-Beltagy on Thursday, security sources said, as they pressed on with a crackdown that has put many of the Islamist group’s leaders behind bars in recent weeks.
Beltagy appeared in a recorded statement aired by the Qatari-owned al-Jazeera television news network late on Thursday in which he urged Egyptians to join rallies against the military on Friday.
The crackdown on the group began after Egypt’s army deposed President Mohammed Mursi, a Muslim Brotherhood member, on July 3.
Thursday’s call for further protests, as police continue rounding up Islamists, was immediately followed by an interior ministry warning that live ammunition will be used on protesters who attack public institutions.
“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 the 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.
The interior ministry said in a statement that it would forcefully confront any “attempt to affect the stability of public security.”
“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.
In a statement, the Anti-Coup Alliance called for the release of prisoners and demanded a probe into the violence over the past month.
After arresting much of the movement’s leadership, the police have begun rounding up mid-level operatives around the country.
The crackdown on the Islamists has severely impacted their ability to muster supporters on the street. Last Friday, only several thousand people heeded their call for marches in Cairo.
(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)