CAIRO — Egypt's top security official on Monday sought to build claims that the Muslim Brotherhood is backing terrorism, showing alleged confessions of militants saying they received funds from members of the group to attack police and the military.
The Brotherhood has denied any link to the wave of militant attacks on security forces, which escalated since last summer in retaliation for the military's outer of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and the subsequent crackdown on his Islamist supporters.
Egypt's interim government has branded the group a terrorist organization and moved to crush continuing protests by Morsi supporters, arresting more than 16,000 and killing hundreds. The Brotherhood says government accusations that it backs the campaign of violence are aimed at justifying authorities' drive to eradicate it.
Militant violence first flared in the restive Sinai Peninsula but has since spread to the capital Cairo and cities of the Nile Delta, including bombings of police positions and assassinations of senior officers. Two groups have claimed responsibility for most attacks — the al-Qaida-inspired Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, and a newer group called Ajnad Misr, or Egypt's Soldiers.
At a press conference Monday, Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim said security forces have uncovered 40 "terrorist cells" since April and proclaimed that authorities are in a "decisive stage in curbing terrorism."
He aired the confessions of five alleged militants, saying they had masterminded a number of attacks. Some of their plots were foiled, Ibrahim said, but others were carried out, including killing five senior police officers by planting explosives in their vehicles or posts or by drive-by shootings in the greater Cairo area.
In the confessions, one of the militants, who identified himself as Abdullah Hussein, said he had fought in Syria's civil war alongside Ahrar al-Sham, a member of an umbrella group of Islamist rebel factions in Syria. He said he trained there in weapons and explosives, then returned to Egypt three months ago and plotted the attacks on police and military.
The contents of the confessions could not be independently confirmed.
An alleged member of the same cell said in his confession that Hussein received money from a top ally of the Brotherhood, Wagdi Ghoneim, and from a teacher who belongs to the group.
A member from a second uncovered cell Sayyed Ali claimed to have received support from another Muslim Brotherhood member named Mohammed el-Sabbawi, whom the minister said was arrested but didn't appear on TV screen.
On Saturday, Egypt's chief prosecutor charged 200 suspected militants of Ansar Beit al-Maqdis with carrying out over 50 terrorist attacks, killing 40 policemen and 15 civilians and conspiring with the Palestinian militant group Hamas, in the first mass trial of a Jihadi group since the country's recent turmoil.
The prosecutor's statement referred to the group as "the most dangerous terrorist group," and accuses the defendants of receiving military training in the Palestinian Gaza Strip under the patronage of Hamas. It also said they traveled to Syria where they took part in fighting against government forces before returning to Egypt.
Washington designated the group as a terrorist organization in April, accusing it of carrying out attacks in Israel, against security forces and tourists in Egypt.
In an attempt to control sources of finance to militants, Interim President Adly Mansour decided to amend an anti-money laundering law to criminalize the "financing of the individual terrorist" and not just groups, associations, or organizations that use terrorism as a way to achieve their agenda.
Authorities have already ordered the confiscation of assets of hundreds of Brotherhood leaders and their Islamist allies, in accordance with a court order in September which banned the group. On Monday, Deputy Justice Minister Ezzat Khamis gave a statement adding more names to the list of those whose assets were confiscated.
He said 30 more leaders were added to list as well as 12 associations and six companies working in media production and construction.