Forces react to Cairo Univ blasts, pro-Morsi students brush off allegations

Mariam Rizk , Wednesday 2 Apr 2014

Security forces deployed outside of Cairo university following a blast that killed a Brigadier-general and injured five police officers, 2 April 2014 (Photo: Mai Shaheen)

After attacks targeting security personnel manned outside Cairo University, different political forces reacted, condemning the blasts that killed one person and injured five others.

Earlier in the day, three explosions went off in front of the campus gates. Sources say the improvised explosive devices were planted beneath or above trees nearby security forces deployed to deal with daily student protests.

Students loyal to ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and Islamist forces were quick to brush off any kind of allegation they were responsible for the attacks.

In previous attacks, authorities blamed Mohamed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood group and their allies for the violence. The Brotherhood — designated a terrorist organisation in December of last year — has repeatedly denied involvement in any attacks, saying the group abides by peaceful principles, despite the appearance of some armed members during their protests.

Major General Hani Abdel-Latif, spokesman of the Ministry of Interior, told Sada El-Balad private television channel that the police is facing a group of religious outcasts with whom the state "will deal firmly and strongly."

He further claimed that there are factions affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood who directed these "terrorist attacks" from outside the university. 

Pro-Morsi forces brush off allegations

"Students Against the Coup," which supports ousted president Morsi, said the blasts were a "plot" from the security forces to "create violence and taint the students with the crime of terrorism after they failed in front of [our] creative peacefulness."

"They plan to use this blast as a prelude to squash students," the group said in a statement issued shortly after the explosions, announcing that they will cancel the day's protests so as not to "be dragged in to any violence."

Cairo University campus was already evacuated after the second explosion.

Students supporting and loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood have kept their defiance ongoing, despite a crackdown that cut numbers short in street demonstrations.

Clashes between students and security forces over the past months have left at least a dozen students killed and hundreds arrested.

In the group's statement Wednesday, they blamed the "coup authorities" for blood being shed every day in universities and on the streets.

Amr Darrag, a leading member of the Brotherhood and a former minister in the dissolved cabinet of Hisham Qandil, also condemned the attacks on his Twitter account.

"This is an obvious failure of the Ministry of Interior in securing its personnel," Darrag said. "The student movement of (our supporters) is peaceful and will remain peaceful."

Salafists seek 'proof' of Brotherhood non-violence

Other Islamist factions who supported the July 2013 Morsi ouster sought concrete evidence that the Brotherhood rejects the violence and is not using it.

Spokesman of Salafist El-Nour Party Sherif Taha said, in an oblique reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, that there are key demands to be met, if they are serious about rejecting violence.

"To unleash political cover, stop creating the atmosphere that helps spreading such acts, and not to ally with the violent takfiri (radical Islamists who defy the state) groups," Taha added.

He said that these kinds of terrorist attacks increase as "any step in the future (political) roadmap gets closer," in reference to the upcoming presidential elections, slated for 26-27 May.

"We remind those who forgot the past events that violence does not bring down a state," Taha said on his official Facebook page.

'Political solution' needed

"These terrorist attacks have no place in political life," said Khaled Dawoud, spokesman of the liberal Constitution Party. "These acts keep the involved groups outside politics as there's no way people will accept them again."

For its part, the ultraconservative Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya, said the country needs a "political solution" rather than tackling every problem with a security mindset.

The group said the state should focus on a real solution to the country's political crisis, instead of preparing for presidential elections "the result of which is already known" — a reference to Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi's candidacy and likely win.

Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya was responsible for a wave of attacks in the 1980s and 90s, which they denounced later, revising their stance on political violence.

"Using the security solution, continuous repression, exclusion and random killing creates the environment for violence and counter attacks, sliding the nation to dangers that satisfies no one," the group said in a statement emailed to reporters.

Also condemning the attack was the anti-military anti-Brotherhood April 6 Youth Movement, which asked that security officials be held accountable for their "utter inadequacy" in securing citizens, vital installations and even their own forces.

"Security forces should rethink the way they deal with civilians, as it created a new wave of terrorism," the group said in a statement. "Whoever cannot do his job should leave his post instantly."

Violence spike ahead of key vote?

The attacks Wednesday took violence in and outside university campuses to a new level as the country awaits the May presidential elections. Aside from El-Sisi, only leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi has officially announced his candidacy.

"Targeting Cairo University is yet a new piece of evidence to the meanness, backwardness and bloodiness of terrorism," Sabahi said on Twitter.

"Egypt will be victorious and will exact retribution for its martyrs," Sabahi added.

The official campaign of El-Sisi offered its condolences to the families of the victims in Wednesday's attacks, saying "Egypt will not be defeated."

The opening academic semester, last year, was marked by heated demonstrations that disrupted some mid-term examinations. The second semester was delayed for three weeks.

After Wednesday's attacks, Gaber Nassar, head of Cairo University, said there was no intention of cancelling or delaying the second semester.

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