Egypt army gives Brotherhood 48 hours to join roadmap

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Updated 18 August 2013

Egypt army gives Brotherhood 48 hours to join roadmap

CAIRO: Egypt’s army threatened on Thursday to turn its guns on those who use violence, its starkest warning yet ahead of what both sides expect will be a bloody showdown in the streets between supporters and opponents of deposed president Mohamed Mursi.
An army official said the military had issued an ultimatum to Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood, giving the Islamist group until Saturday to sign up to a plan for political reconciliation which it has so far spurned.
The army has summoned Egyptians into the streets for Friday and made clear it intends the day to mark a turning point in its confrontation with the followers of Mursi, the elected leader the generals removed on July 3.
Mursi’s Brotherhood, which has maintained a street vigil for a month with thousands of followers demanding Mursi’s return, has called its own crowds out for counter-demonstrations across the country in a “day to remove the coup.”
Both sides have dramatically escalated rhetoric ahead of Friday’s demonstrations. The Brotherhood accused the army of pushing the nation toward civil war and committing a crime worse than destroying Islam’s holiest site.
The army issued its warning in a statement posted on a Facebook page. It will not “turn its guns against its people,” the statement said, “but it will turn them against black violence and terrorism which has no religion or nation.”
A military official said the army had given the Brotherhood 48 hours from Thursday afternoon to join the political process. He did not reveal what the consequences would be if the Brotherhood refuses.
Army chief General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has called on Egyptians to take to the streets and give him a “mandate” to take action against the violence that has convulsed Egypt since he shunted its first freely elected president from power.
The Brotherhood, an Islamist movement that won repeated elections since the fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011, says it is the authorities themselves that have stirred up the violence to justify their crackdown.
The main anti-Mursi youth protest group, which has rallied behind the army, said its supporters were taking to the streets to “cleanse Egypt.”
The West is increasingly alarmed at the course taken by Egypt, a strategic hinge between the Middle East and North Africa, since the Arab Spring protests brought down Mubarak and ended decades of autocratic rule.
For weeks, the authorities have rounded up some Brotherhood officials but tolerated the movement’s presence on the streets, with thousands of people attending its vigil demanding Mursi’s return and tens of thousands appearing at its demonstrations.
That patience seems to have run out. Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi, head of the interim cabinet installed by the army, said there was escalating violence by increasingly well-armed protesters, citing a bomb attack on a police station.
“The presence of weapons, intimidation, fear — this causes concern, especially when there are calls for many to come out tomorrow from different sides,” he told a news conference.
After a month in which close to 200 people have died in violence triggered by Mursi’s downfall, many fear the protests will lead to more bloodshed.
Past incidents of violence have tended to run through the night and into the following day. Another security official forecast violence beginning Friday night and stretching into Saturday, the period covered by the army’s ultimatum. He also indicated that the two-day period was expected to be decisive.
“The history of Egypt will be written on those days,” said the official, part of a security establishment that accuses the Islamists of turning to violence.
The Brotherhood blames the violence on the authorities, accusing them of stirring it up to justify a crackdown with the ultimate goal of wiping the group out.
Reiterating his group’s commitment to peaceful protest, senior Brotherhood politician Farid Ismail accused the security services of readying militias to attack Mursi supporters, adding that Sisi aimed to drag Egypt into civil war.
“His definition of terrorism is anyone who disagrees with him,” Ismail told Reuters. “We are moving forward in complete peacefulness, going forward to confront this coup.”
Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie issued a statement accusing Sisi of committing a crime worse than destroying the Kabaa — the site in Makkah to which all Muslims face when they pray — “brick by brick.”
But many Egyptians are no less passionately backing the army, determined to see the Brotherhood reined in.
“There are men carrying guns on the street ... We will not let extremists ruin our revolution,” said Mohammed Abdul Aziz, a spokesman for Tamarud, an anti-Mursi petition campaign that mobilized protests against his rule.
“Tomorrow we will cleanse Egypt,” he told Reuters.

Uncompromising
Sisi’s speech on Wednesday pointed to the deepening confrontation between the Brotherhood and the military establishment, which has reasserted its role at the heart of government even as it says it aims to steer clear of politics.
Saying it moved against Mursi in response to the biggest popular protests in Egypt’s history, the army installed an interim cabinet that plans to hold parliamentary elections in about six months, to be followed by a presidential vote.
The Brotherhood says it wants nothing to do with the transition plan. With Mursi still in military detention at an undisclosed location, there is slim hope for compromise.
The country remains deeply split over what happened on July 3. The Brotherhood accuses the army of ejecting a democratically elected leader in a long-planned coup, while its opponents say the army responded to the will of the people.
Sisi announced the nationwide rallies after a bomb attack on a police station in Mansoura, a city north of Cairo in which a policeman was killed. The government said it was a terrorist attack. The Brotherhood also condemned the bombing, accusing the establishment of seeking to frame it.
Since Mursi was deposed, hard-line Islamist groups have also escalated a violent campaign against the state in the lawless Sinai Peninsula, with daily attacks on the police and army.
Two more soldiers were killed on Thursday in an attack on a checkpoint, security and medical sources told Reuters.
At the Brotherhood protest camp in front of a Cairo mosque, Mursi supporters said they expected the army to provoke violence to justify its crackdown.
“The army itself will strike. They will use thugs and the police,” said Sarah Ahmad, a 24-year-old medical student.
Essam El-Erian, another senior Brotherhood politician, accused “the putschists” of trying to recreate a police state, telling a televised news conference: “This state will never return, and Egypt will not go backwards.”

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Violence mounts against Iraqi doctors as COVID-19 cases spike

Updated 1 min 30 sec ago

Violence mounts against Iraqi doctors as COVID-19 cases spike

NAJAF: Iraqi doctor Tariq Al-Sheibani remembers little else beyond cowering on the ground as a dozen relatives of a patient, who had just died of COVID-19, beat him unconscious.
About two hours later the 47-year-old director of Al-Amal Hospital in the southern city of Najaf woke up in a different clinic with bruises all over his body.
“All the doctors are scared,” said Sheibani, speaking at his home in Kufa a few weeks after the Aug. 28 attack. “Every time a patient dies, we all hold our breath.”
He is one of many doctors struggling to do their job as COVID-19 cases rise sharply in Iraq.
They are working within a health service that has been left to decay through years of civil conflict and underfunding, and now face the added threat of physical attack by grieving and desperate families.
Reuters spoke to seven doctors, including the head of Iraq’s Medical Association, who described a growing pattern of assaults on medical staff. Dozens have taken place since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Meanwhile, the United Nations has warned that the pandemic could spiral out of control in Iraq.
Authorities have lifted many lockdown measures, allowing restaurants and places of worship to reopen, but they have shut borders to pilgrims ahead of a large Shiite Muslim pilgrimage that normally draws millions to the south of the country.
Iraq has recorded several thousand new coronavirus infections every day, and the total now exceeds 300,000.
More than 8,000 people have died, a number that some doctors fear will rise sharply, putting frontline health care workers under huge pressure and in some cases in physical danger.
The health ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the COVID situation in Iraq and medics’ complaints about the threat of violence.
Sheibani, whose beating went viral when CCTV footage circulated online, said the family of the deceased patient blamed his staff for the death. He said he did not know how the video reached the public domain.
The patient had arrived at hospital in critical condition.
“I hate myself and I hate the day I became a doctor in Iraq,” Sheibani told Reuters. “They brought the patient in his final stages and he died, and they want the health system to bear the responsibility.”
Enforcing health safety guidelines within the hospital is not always easy, especially when tensions between families of sick patients and hospital staff are running high.
During a recent visit to Sheibani’s hospital, which is a coronavirus isolation center, Reuters reporters saw relatives of COVID-19 patients coming in and out of the ward without wearing full protective gear as they are supposed to.
Some were only wearing surgical face masks.
Iraq is fighting the pandemic with a depleted force of doctors and nurses.
In 2018, it had just 2.1 nurses and midwives per thousand people, compared with Jordan’s 3.2 and Lebanon’s 3.7, according to official estimates. It had 0.83 doctors per thousand people, while neighboring Jordan, for example, had 2.3.
There are also significant shortages of drugs, oxygen, and vital medical equipment, the result of years of underspending.
Many young doctors say they are overworked, putting in 12-16 hour shifts every day meaning they are more likely to make mistakes in prescriptions and treatment. Some take kickbacks for handing over certain drugs, physicians told Reuters.
The Health Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Government vows action
Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi has condemned the attacks against medical staff and promised to hold perpetrators to account.
The attacks have increased in recent months, said Medical Association president Abdul Ameer Hussein. He said his association could not keep track of all of them, but they include verbal and physical abuse and even stabbings.
Sheibani filed a complaint with police, but he said he had received threats from the people who beat him up to drop the case.
“They might attack me or my family,” Sheibani said, adding that he no longer left his house alone.
Doctors say the government has not taken tough enough action to protect them from violence, which they have faced for years even before the pandemic.
The health ministry said in a statement on Saturday that it would assign its legal division to file lawsuits against those who attacked health workers, as well as those medics who fell short in treating patients.
According to the Medical Association, at least 320 doctors have been killed since 2003, when US-led forces toppled President Saddam Hussein, ushering in years of sectarian violence and extremist insurgencies.
Thousands more have been kidnapped or threatened.
Doctors and human rights activists say the state is so weak that it cannot bring doctor’s assailants to justice, especially if they come from a powerful tribe or belong to a militia.
“The government can’t protect doctors from tribes. Doctors end up dropping the cases because they receive threats,” said Hussein, adding that he often asks tribal leaders to mediate when a doctor is being threatened.
Doctors have gone on strike and protested in recent months over what they say is government inaction over the attacks.
Abbas Alaulddin, 27, a doctor in Baghdad who was assaulted last week by the family of a patient who died of COVID-19, said he was considering seeking asylum.
“The situation here is unbearable.”