The Egyptian government has continued a nationwide crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood in the wake of two bombings this week. Analysts fear more Muslim Brothers could turn to violence in response.
They include the son of a deputy leader of deposed President Mohammed Morsi’s movement, the official MENA news agency said.
Seven were detained for a renewable two-week period in the city of Alexandria and 11 in the Nile Delta town of Zagazig.
Police also arrested 16 suspected Muslim Brotherhood members for passing out leaflets in support of the group and “inciting to violence,” the MENA agency reported.
The Brotherhood’s designation as a terrorist group means anyone taking part in rallies in support of the group could be sentenced to five years in prison, according to the interior ministry. Possessing their literature, or supporting them “verbally or in writing,” is punishable by up to five years in prison, a ministry statement said.
‘Trust in God and your army’
The arrests come in the wake of the bombing of a bus in Cairo on Thursday morning, which wounded five people, and a suicide bombing that killed 16 in the Nile delta city of Mansoura on Tuesday. The moderately Islamist Brotherhood – which renounced violence in the 1970s – condemned that attack, which was in turn claimed by an al Qaeda-inspired group based in the Sinai Peninsula.
Police also defused a second bomb at the same site in Cairo on Thursday and cordoned off the area as sniffer dogs searched for more explosive devices, a correspondent for news agency AFP said.
Army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who led the ouster of Morsi, vowed Thursday to fight terrorism and stabilize the deeply polarized country.
“Do not worry or fear, the army will sacrifice for Egypt. We will eliminate terrorism,” Sisi said at a military ceremony.
“Do not allow these terrorist actions to affect you. If you want freedom and stability, which is not achieved easily, then you have to trust God and your army and your police,” said Sisi, who is also defense minister, in a statement released by the army.
Fears of radicalization
The Brotherhood still organizes almost daily protests demanding Morsi’s return, nearly six months after the military overthrew him.
Since then, more than 1,000 people have been killed in street clashes and thousands more imprisoned in the country after a crackdown on the movement.
Analysts have expressed fears that the Brotherhood could radicalize, with a new generation of activists breaking from the Brotherhood’s more moderate leadership, most of whom are imprisoned, and joining al Qaeda related groups.
“It is impossible to dismiss the idea that at least a fringe group of the repression’s victims will choose counter-violence and join the jihadists,” Francois Burgat, a Beirut-based expert on Islamist movements, told AFP.