December 20, 2014
Gunmen kill Egyptian general; ousted Morsi defiant at trial
Islamist militant gunmen on a motorcycle killed a top Interior Ministry official in the latest blow to a military-backed Egyptian government struggling to curb violence and suppress dissent.
General Mohamed Saeed, head of the ministry's technical office, was shot in his car outside his home in daytime.
A Sinai-based militant group inspired by al Qaeda, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, said it carried out the attack against the "apostate, criminal" Saeed.
The shooting occurred hours before deposed President Mohamed Morsi appeared in court on charges of kidnapping and killing policemen after a jailbreak during the 2011 uprising that ended President Hosni Mubarak's three decades of autocracy.
Army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted Morsi in July after mass protests against his rule and is expected to declare soon that he will run for president. With no challenger in sight, that would effectively return Egypt to military rule.
A Sisi presidency would delight many Egyptians, but would anger the Muslim Brotherhood, which helped Morsi become Egypt's first freely elected leader. The government has since declared it a terrorist group. The outlawed Brotherhood denies any links to the militants now waging an increasingly potent insurgency.
Also today, gunmen killed a policeman guarding a church in October 6 city, west of Cairo, security sources said.
The Brotherhood says Sisi's removal of Morsi was a coup that reversed the democratic gains of the anti-Mubarak revolt. Hundreds of people have been killed in clashes between the security forces and Morsi supporters since August.
At Morsi's trial, held in a police academy in Cairo, the deposed president was held in a glass cage with a sound system controlled by the court to prevent him shouting slogans against Sisi as he did in previous court sessions. Human rights groups see Morsi's treatment as part of a wide crackdown on opposition.
Morsi insisted he was still Egypt's true president and raged at the judge, asking: "Who are you? Don't you know who I am?"
At times Morsi, in a white track suit, paced in his cage. Other Brotherhood leaders, held in a separate glass cage, waved to people in the courtroom. The trial was adjourned to Feb. 22.
A list of 132 defendants published by state media indicated some were Palestinians being tried in absentia. Egypt accuses the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas of helping Brotherhood leaders escape from the jail where Morsi was held in 2011.
The authorities also say Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, has funded Egyptian militant groups based in the nearby Sinai peninsula which have claimed responsibility for several bomb and gun attacks in recent months. Hamas denies the accusations.