Egypt arrests more Islamists as EU official visits

By Aya Batrawy

Associated Press

Published: Monday, July 29 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

In this image released by the Egyptian Presidency, Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief, left, meets with Egypt's interim Vice President, Mohamed ElBaradei in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, July 29, 2013. It was Ashton's second visit to Cairo since President Mohammed Morsi was toppled nearly a month ago, underscoring the urgency felt after violence that has killed more than 260 people and all but dashed hopes of political reconciliation in the deeply divided country.

Egyptian Presidency, Associated Press

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CAIRO — Egyptian police detained two leaders of a Muslim Brotherhood-allied party in the latest in a wave of arrests of prominent Islamists following President Mohammed Morsi's ouster, while Europe's top diplomat held talks with the rival sides Monday to try to mediate an end to the country's increasingly bloody crisis.

It was European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton's second visit to Cairo since Morsi was toppled nearly a month ago, underscoring the urgency felt after violence that has killed more than 260 people and all but dashed hopes of political reconciliation in the deeply divided country.

International concern has spiked after security forces killed at least 83 Morsi supporters in clashes outside their sit-in where they have been calling for his reinstatement in Cairo over the weekend. Human Rights Watch and field doctors interviewed by The Associated Press said many were killed by gunshots to the head and chest.

Security officials said Monday that a police captain died of wounds sustained during those clashes after being hit in the eye with birdshot from protesters. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

The clashes, which the Brotherhood has described as a "massacre," came after millions took the streets to show their support for military chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. The mass turnout followed a call from el-Sissi, who also is defense minister, for rallies to give him a mandate to deal with violence and "potential terrorism" — a thinly veiled reference to expected crackdowns on Morsi supporters who are holding sit-in camps in Cairo.

The military pushed Morsi from power after days of mass protests by millions of Egyptians demanding that the president step down after a year in office.

The Muslim Brotherhood denounces the coup and has vowed to keep up its rallies until Morsi is reinstated.

"The military coup is the highest level of violence and terrorism to millions of Egyptians who voted in free elections, in addition to the preference of parties and bias against others," top Brotherhood official Essam El-Erian wrote Monday in a statement on his Facebook page.

The group has called for rallies outside security facilities on Monday evening during which they plan to carry empty coffins as a symbol of their dead. They have also called for mass protests Tuesday under the banner "Martyrs of the Coup," and have set up a tent a block away from their main sit-in for prayers for those killed over the weekend.

The Interior Ministry has vowed to take decisive action against anyone who violates state property, referring to the protesters efforts to expand their encampment.

Egypt's authorities have rounded up several Brotherhood leaders and other prominent Islamists since Morsi's ouster. The circle of those in custody expanded late Sunday after authorities arrested two figures from the Brotherhood-allied Wasat Party and took them to the capital's Tora prison.

Security officials said that Abul-Ela Madi and Essam Soltan, who faced arrest warrants linked to allegations of inciting violence, were found hiding in a home in a Cairo neighborhood located near the main protest site of Morsi's supporters.

The party condemned the arrest of its leaders, saying such measures exacerbate the crisis and add new obstacles to efforts to build bridges.

Morsi himself has been held incommunicado by the military since his ouster. Last week prosecutors announced they had launched an investigation into the ousted president on charges of murder and conspiring with the Palestinian militant group Hamas to carry out an attack on a prison during the 2011 uprising against autocrat Hosni Mubarak. The jailbreak allegedly led to the deaths of inmates and broke Morsi and around 30 other members of the group out of detention.

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