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Egypt official: Muslim Brotherhood backs unrest

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's interior minister said Saturday his forces have foiled several attempted terror attacks and arrested militant leaders, accusing the Muslim Brotherhood of mobilizing and financing some of them to cause unrest.

Mohammed Ibrahim's comments were the first detailed account offered by a senior Egyptian official to back claims that the Brotherhood, the group of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, is responsible for attacks against security, government institutions and the country's Coptic minority. However, he didn't provide proof to back up his claims.

The wave of violence intensified after the government carried out a bloody crackdown on Morsi supporters that killed hundreds in August. "The security forces, in coordination and cooperation with the armed forces, has faced in the past period one of the most dangerous waves of terror witnessed by the nation that aimed to spread chaos and instability," Ibrahim told journalists. "The Muslim Brotherhood, in cooperation and with finances from the international branch of the group, has mobilized a number of terrorist extremist elements ... and spurred them to carry out villainous terrorist act to terrorize" Egyptians.

Ibrahim accused the Brotherhood of enlisting the help of militant groups linked to al-Qaida and Palestinian extremist groups operating in the Gaza Strip following the popular protests against Morsi that started on June 30. The military forced Morsi out of office days later.

The Brotherhood repeatedly has denied government claims that it uses or condones violence. Instead, they accuse the government of trying to stymie the group as part of its crackdown against it. Ibrahim Elsayed, a member of the Brotherhood's political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, dismissed the accusations by Ibrahim as "security illusions."

"He didn't prove the involvement of any member of the Brotherhood — in particular in any of the attacks he mentioned," Elsayed said. "This is an immature attempt to embellish the image of the interior ministry at a time it is shedding the blood of Egyptians."

Ibrahim said five senior militants were detained from two pro-Morsi sit-ins which authorities broke up violently in August, including senior members of Islamic Jihad and Gamaa Islamiyya. The two groups were responsible for some of the worst attacks in Egypt in the 1980s and 1990s, but many of their leaders have since given up violence and formed political parties after the ouster of longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. The groups were allies of Morsi and the Brotherhood.

Ibrahim accused sit-in participants of stockpiling weapons. He said other militants arrested were released from prison by Morsi's government. He said his forces have arrested more than 60 militants accused of various attacks, including the assassination of a senior security official who was in charge of monitoring Islamist groups. He said the forces also seized weapons and ammunitions intended for use in operations his forces foiled.

Also among those arrested was an Egyptian who coordinated operations and finances between a Libyan militant group and others in Egypt, Ibrahim said. A wanted militant that plotted a foiled assassination attempt on Ibrahim in September had trained in Syria, the minister said.

Ibrahim said the government was working to freeze Brotherhood assets to stop money from sponsoring violence or further protests. He also warned that his forces will deal "firmly and with force" with any protests they deem not peaceful or which block main streets — "regardless of the losses for me or for them."

Morsi allies refuse to recognize Egypt's military-backed interim authorities and organize near-daily protests against them. Some demonstrations descend into violence. They plan mass demonstrations Sunday to remember the day police violently cleared the sit-ins.

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