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Monday, September 23, 2013

Kerdasa Crackdown Continues

Police arrested over 130 people in the town of Kerdasa outside of Cairo last week, authorities said. The ongoing Kerdasa campaign is part of the Egyptian government’s escalated crackdown on Islamist groups and Islamist-held towns over the past few weeks. Police also continued what they called a “counter-terror” sweep in towns in the Sinai peninsula, an area long known as a lawless backwater where extremist attacks are common. 350 people have been arrested in the two weeks since the Egyptian armed forces ramped up their campaign in the area.

Sisi for President?

In the last few weeks, there has been much talk in the Egyptian press about whether General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi will run for president in the coming election cycle. Throughout it all, Sisi has denied that he intends to run. This weekend, a spokesperson with the Egyptian Armed Forces reiterated that message on the Saudi channel Al-Arabiya, saying Sisi’s “utmost ambition” is to lead the military. In reference to campaigns that have been collecting signatures to support a potential Sisi run, the spokesperson said that these reflect “public sentiment” but don’t reflect the reality of the situation.

Military Trials in Egypt

Over the past few months, several dozen protesters have been detained by Egyptian police and tried in military courts, a practice which has drawn criticism from human rights groups. Military courts have sentenced Muslim Brotherhood members and members of other Islamist groups to prison sentences ranging from two years to life, according to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, and have convicted over 60 civilians in recent months. But when Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy met with US Secretary of State John Kerry this weekend in New York, he assured his American counterpart that protesters would not be tried under such conditions. On the existing government-imposed state of emergency, Fahmy told Kerry that the interim government would not extend it longer than mid-November without the support of a popular referendum.

New School Year Kicks Off with Protests

On Sunday, the first day of the Egyptian school year, political events permeated the usual, chaotic back-to-school madness. Over 1500 students at Cairo University, the site of a violent clashes between authorities and protesters that took place earlier this summer, protested against the military-backed interim government. More than 11 students in different cities around Egypt were arrested on Sunday for taking part in anti-military protests.

Nairobi Mall Attack

Armed militants from Somalia’s Islamist group Al-Shabaab took over a mall in an affluent area of Nairobi on Saturday, and have killed over 60 people so far. Authorities estimate that 15 gunmen remain inside the mall with an unknown number of hostages. Bystanders heard powerful explosions and gunfire and saw smoke rising from the mall on Monday. Al-Shabaab is demanding that Kenya pull its troops out of Somalia, something Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta refused to do, he said on Sunday. Kenyan troops are in Somalia as part of an African-Union peacekeeping mission.

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