Two Muslim Brotherhood leaders have been killed in suspicious circumstances by the Egyptian security forces.
A ministry statement carried by the official MENA news agency said 61-year-old Dr. Mohammed Kamal, a physician by profession, was killed along with Yasser Shahata Ali Ragab in an exchange of gunfire as police tried to arrest the two late on Monday (Oct 3, 2016) night.
But a Brotherhood statement posted on its official website shortly after reports of the shootout surfaced said Dr. Kamal had been arrested by police, suggesting he was killed after being taken into custody.
The statement went on to say: Here’s our reply to your heinous crime, to the murderous military junta. …..We announce it, as also the founding Imam Hassan Al-Banna announced it: “To die for the sake of God is our highest aspiration”.
London-based Brotherhood leader Mohamed Soudan told Turkish news agency Anadolu:
“Authorities announced the death of Kamal and Shehata shortly after local media reported that they had been arrested. This means that both leaders had been liquidated,” he said.
Dr. Kamal was twice sentenced in absentia to life in prison on charges of setting up an armed group and setting off an explosion near a police station, while Ragab was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in jail.
Dr.Kamal was one of the most prominent leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and a member of the Guidance Bureau. He was previously in charge of the supreme Administrative Committee, known as the youth committee.
He was accused of planning the June 2015 killing in Cairo of Egypt’s chief prosecutor, Hisham Barakat.
Dr. Kamal was also accused of master minding the assassination attempt on Egypt’s former mufti, Sheikh Ali Gomaa, in Cairo in August 2016. Tellingly, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for the attack.
Gomaa was a key supporter of the military’s 2013 coup. In public speeches, he has been advocating the use of force against the Muslim Brotherhood.
The mysterious killing of the two Muslim Brotherhood leaders once again highlights the brutal policies of the US-backed military government of Filed Marshall Abdel Fatah el-Sisi who came to power in July 2013 by overthrowing the elected President Mohammad Morsi.
Since President Morsi’s outer, the military government has been carrying an extensive crackdown on Morsi’s supporters and other government opponents. Thousands of the group’s members, including its top leadership, have been jailed for opposing the coup.
On February 2, 2015, an Egyptian court sentenced 183 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood to death on charges of killing police officers, part of a sustained crackdown by authorities on anti-government elements. The men were convicted of playing a role in the killings of 16 policemen in the town of Kardasa in August 2013 during the upheaval that followed the army’s coup against president Mohamed Mursi.
Egypt has mounted one of the biggest crackdowns in its modern history on the Brotherhood since the overthrow of President Mursi, the country’s first democratically-elected president.
Thousands of Brotherhood supporters have been arrested and put on mass trials in a campaign which human rights groups say shows the government is systematically repressing opponents.
The Newsweek wrote in August 2015, under Field Marshall el-Sissi, Egypt is enduring what Human Rights Watch’s Joe Stork calls “a human rights crisis that is the worst in memory.” Peaceful assemblies are outlawed; police shoot demonstrators and abuse thousands of political detainees with impunity.
Anyone opposing the regime faces severe repression, but the Muslim Brotherhood is particularly targeted. “The new regime moved very quickly to decapitate the organization, which meant arresting the top three tiers of the organization,” says Eric Trager of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Since Morsi’s fall, tens of thousands of members have either been detained or fled into exile, and only a minority of the Brotherhood leadership has managed to escape, mainly to Istanbul.
Their leader, Mohammed Badie, was sentenced to death in April 2014 along with 682 other Morsi supporters in a trial that lasted just eight minutes. The thoroughly politicized courts have also sentenced Morsi to death, in May 2015. By comparison, Hosni Mubarak, the country’s dictator for 30 years, got three years for corruption charges.
In March 2014, a court in Egypt sentenced 528 supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi to death. They were convicted of charges including murdering a policeman and attacks on people and property. The group was among some 1,200 Muslim Brotherhood supporters on trial, including senior members.
The speed of the case, and the severity of the outcome, are unprecedented in Egypt, according to legal sources. In a case centred on the killing of a single police officer, more than 520 defendants have been sentenced to death, at a breathtaking pace.
The Human Rights Watch reported in January 2015, Scores of Egyptians died in government custody in 2014, many of them packed into police stations in life-threatening conditions. Yet the authorities have taken no serious steps either to improve detention conditions or to independently investigate detainees’ deaths. Some detainees appear to have died after being tortured or physically abused, Human Rights Watch found.
The Human Rights Watch reported that in July and August 2013, many of Egypt’s public squares and streets were awash in blood. In response to anti-government protests by the Muslim Brotherhood supporters, police and army forces repeatedly opened fire on demonstrators, killing over 1,150, most of them in five separate incidents of mass protester killings.
The gravest incident of mass protester killings occurred on August 14, when security forces crushed the major pro-Morsy sit-in in Rab’a al-Adawiya Square in the Nasr City district of eastern Cairo, killing at least 817 and likely more than 1,000. Human Rights Watch researchers documented the dispersal of the Rab’a sit-in and found that security forces opened fire on protesters using live ammunition, with hundreds killed by bullets to their heads, necks, and chests.
The Rab’a and al-Nahda square dispersals were both preceded and followed by other mass killings of protesters, the Human Rights Watch said.
Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net) email: asghazali2011 (@) gmail.com