CAIRO (AP) — A senior judge was sworn in as Egypt's interim president Thursday to replace ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi as the military launched a major crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood. Reeling from what it called a military coup against democracy, the group said it would not work with the new political system.
The sweep against the Brotherhood leadership included the group's top leader, a figure venerated among its followers, General Guide Mohammed Badie. He was arrested late Wednesday from a villa where he had been staying at a Mediterranean coastal city and flown by helicopter to Cairo, security officials said.
The move against the Brotherhood raises deep questions over how Islamists will fit into Egypt's new political system after the military on Wednesday swept out Morsi, the country's first freely elected president. The military is installing a new civilian leadership to pave the way to new elections, saying it will stay out of politics.
The army says it did so in the name of millions of Egyptians who had taken to streets demanding he be removed. In the eyes of protesters, Morsi and the Brotherhood from which he hails had warped the democratic process. Many of them say the group has proven its anti-democratic nature and argue that its leaders committed prosecutable crimes.
But the Brotherhood remains a powerful force, with a highly organized membership nationwide.
The top opposition political grouping, the National Salvation Front, issued a statement Thursday saying, “We totally reject excluding any party, particularly political Islamic groups.”
The Brotherhood announced it wanted nothing to do with the new political system.
“We declare our complete rejection of the military coup staged against the elected president and the will of the nation,” the Brotherhood said in a statement that the group's senior cleric Abdel-Rahman el-Barr read to Morsi's supporters staging a days-long sit-in in Cairo.
“We refuse to participate in any activities with the usurping authorities,” it said.
There are fears of a violent backlash from Islamists against the army move, particularly from hard-liners, some of whom belong to former armed militant groups. Clashes between Islamists and police erupted in multiple places around the country after the army's announcement of Morsi's removal Wednesday night, leaving at least nine dead.
Morsi has been detained in an unknown location since the generals pushed him out Wednesday. At least a dozen of his senior aides and advisers are being held in what is described as house arrest.
The arrest of Badie was a dramatic step, since even the regimes of Mubarak and his predecessors had been reluctant to move against the group's top leader. The Brotherhood was banned for most of its 83-year existence, but it has been decades since its general guide was put in a prison.
According to security officials, also arrested are Badie's predecessor as general guide, Mehdi Akef; the head of the Brotherhood's political party, Saad Katatni; one of Badie's deputies Rashad Bayoumi; and ultraconservative Salafi figure Hazem Abu Ismail, who has a considerable street following.
Authorities have also issued a wanted list for more than 200 Brotherhood members and leaders of other Islamist groups. Among them is Khairat el-Shater, another deputy of the general guide who is widely considered the most powerful figure in the Brotherhood.
The warrant against Badie and el-Shater cited suspicion they were responsible in the killing of six protesters during clashes this week at the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood. The deaths came when gunmen inside the building opened fire on protesters attacking the building with stones and firebombs.
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