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Military Brutally Cracks Down on Protesters
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- Islamists Fare Well in Parliamentary Elections; Political Turmoil Complicates Presidential Vote
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- Military Brutally Cracks Down on Protesters
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- Mass Death Sentences Handed Down in Killing of Officer
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- Egypt Joins in Saudi-Led Fight Against Rebels in Yemen; Prime Minister, Cabinet Resign
Military Brutally Cracks Down on Protesters
At the urging of Gen. Sisi, who wields more influence over the country than the interim government, hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets on July 26 to show support for the military and to demand that the country "confront terrorism." The next day, members of the Muslim Brotherhood staged their own demonstration—a sit-in—in Cairo in support of Morsi, and police opened fire, killing more than 80 people and wounding several hundred. Despite the escalating violence, the Islamists continued the sit-ins and set up protest camps. On August 14 riot police raided the camps. They opened fire and used armored bulldozers, tear gas, snipers, and helicopters to clear the camps. Protesters threw rocks and burned tires in response. More than 500 people were killed, and the government declared a state of emergency. Mohamed ElBaradei resigned as vice president in protest of the military's action. President Barack Obama canceled joint military exercises between Egypt and the U.S. that were scheduled for September in response to the military's repressive and heavy-handed tactics. “While we want to sustain our relationship with Egypt, our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual while civilians are being killed in the streets,” Obama said.
The crackdown and protests dragged on for several days, as both the military and Morsi's supporters vowed to continue their fight. Casualties mounted with more than 1,000 fatalities, most of whom were Morsi supporters. On Aug. 18, 36 Islamic militants in police custody were killed while being transported to prison on the outskirts of Cairo, and on Aug. 19 militants killed 24 police officers in the northern Sinai region. Foreign governments urged the military to use restraint, a plea largely ignored. While foreign officials deplored the heavy-handed tactics of the military, they were careful not to imply support for the protesters, recognizing that the interim government was the only hope for stability. On Aug. 19, police arrested Mohamed Badie, the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, and charged him with incitement to murder. In addition, on the same day a court ordered that former president Hosni Mubarak be released from prison, saying the appeals process had reached an end. He was released from prison on Aug. 22 and placed under house arrest. The government of Morsi kept Mubarak in prison during the appeals process by adding new charges—a precedent Gen. Sisi evidently refused to follow.
By the end of August, the protests had mostly come to an end. After seven weeks of unrest, about 2,000 people were killed, including about 200 police officers, and about 1,500 members or sympathizers of the Muslim Brotherhood had been detained. In September, the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters issued an injunction barring the Muslim Brotherhood from carrying out any activity in the country and confiscated its assests, effectively shutting down the organization. The turn of events called into question whether the 2011 revolution would be in vain. Indeed, all signs indicated that Egypt was headed back to becoming an authoritarian regime.
Violence erupted again in early October when members of the Muslim Brotherhood took the streets in Cairo and their peaceful protests were met with gunfire by riot police. More than 50 members of the brotherhood were killed. In response to the continued violent crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, President Obama announced that the U.S. would temporarily suspend financial and military aid to Egypt, including Apache helicopters, F-16 warplanes, and $260 million. In an attempt to maintain a strategic relationship with Egypt, the U.S. will continue to provide assistance to fight terrorism, train troops, and secure Egypt's borders and the Sinai.
Morsi's trial on charges of inciting the murder of protesters opened briefly in early November and was adjorned until January 2014. He denounced the court as illegitimate and proclaimed himself the leader of Egypt. Fourteen other defendants also appeared in court, and they as well as Morsi were held in a caged area of the courtroom. The government declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization in December, following an attack that killed a dozen people in Mansoura.