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November 5, 2013

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist group - period

Scott Stockdale

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When gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire on a crowd of wedding guests outside a Coptic Christian church, in the Waraa district of Cairo recently, it was but part of an escalating campaign of deadly attacks against Christians in Egypt, in the wake of the ouster of president Morsi. The attacks target mainly Christians - whom the Muslim Brotherhood blames for the ouster of president Morsi - and police and army personnel.

Four members of Fahmy Azer Abboud's family, including two granddaughters aged 8 and 12 were killed in the recent shooting and at least 12 people were injured. A Coptic youth group, known as The Association of Maspero Youth, said:

"If the Egyptian government does not care about the security and rights of Christians, then we must ask why are we paying taxes and why we are not arming ourselves," said the group, formed in 2011 after more than 20 Christians were killed by army troops cracking down on their protest outside Cairo's Nile-side state TV building, known as Maspero.

In the Coptic heartland south of Cairo, the deposing of president Morsi and a subsequent crackdown on followers triggered a spree of revenge attacks in late summer, including the burning of as many as 61churches and the looting of Christian-owned shops and businesses.

The August attacks were seen by police and Christians as retaliation for security forces in Cairo crushing two protest camps of Morsi supporters. Christians, mostly from the Coptic Orthodox Church, make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population of 90 million.

Egyptian authorities are concerned that an insurgency by Islamic extremists in the strategic Sinai Peninsula and rural areas of Egypt is now coming to the capital of 18 million people. In September, the interior minister, who heads the police, survived an assassination attempt by a suicide car bombing and, in early October militants fired rocket-propelled grenades on the nation's largest satellite ground station. Both attacks were in the nation's capital.

Although the recent shooting was condemned by senior government officials, Christian community leaders want action, not just what they feel is empty rhetoric. Anba Rafael, a top Coptic Church official, who led the funeral Mass, called for an end to what he called lax security, and for justice.

Following the ousting of their president, the Brotherhood resorted to a campaign of terror, killing, assassination and interruption of traffic and campus life for millions of students.

Interim Prime Minister Dr. Hazem el-Beblaw said the recent attack would "not succeed in sowing divisions between the nation's Muslims and Christians," and he promised that perpetrators would be brought to justice. Sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb, top Muslim cleric at Al-Azhar, a center for Islamic studies, called the shooting "a criminal act that runs contrary to religion and morals."

When Egyptian authorities arrested five men – including four members of the Muslim Brotherhood - for the attack on the Cairo church, the Brotherhood’s National Alliance for Supporting Legitimacy and Rejecting the Coup blamed the Interior Ministry for the attack.

In the Sinai Peninsula, suspected Muslim Brotherhood supporters have stepped up violence against soldiers and police since the ouster of president Morsi. At the same time, the gas pipeline between Egypt and Israel in North Sinai has been attacked numerous times.

During his one year rule, Morsi disregarded reports that the number of extremists in Sinai is on the rise. They also discounted the declaration establishing the Emirate of the Sinai Peninsula, even as fliers were being distributed on the streets of Al-Arish in August 2011.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has expressed concern about almost daily reports of deaths among the military, police, and civilians, and is seriously concerned about attacks on the multinational forces and international observers responsible for monitoring adherence to security arrangements in Sinai, contained in the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. These forces are composed of nearly 17,000 soldiers who are mostly from the US. According to their general commander, his troops were targeted in 187 shooting incidents between January and May this year alone.

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