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World

Egypt between civil war and new beginning

Mass protests, street battles and terror attacks: the situation in Egypt has gotten significantly worse since President Mohammed Morsi was ousted. DW looks at the major questions about the power struggle in Egypt.

A general view of Cairo's Tahrir Square shows road blocks, near the tomb of former President Anwar al-Sadat (Photo: EPA/KHALED ELFIQI)

Tahrir Square still shows road blocks at the area of clashes between police forces and supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi.

Which two sides are fighting each other in Egypt?

The fronts are clear on the streets. On the one side are the Islamist supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi. On the other side are for the large part secular minded Morsi opponents.

The pro-Morsi demonstrators recruit their followers mainly from the Muslim Brotherhood. The party's candidate - Morsi - in 2012 won the first free presidential elections in the history of Egypt.

The Morsi opponents present a significantly more multifaceted front. Supporters include liberals, socialists, democracy activists, supporters of the former regime under Hosni Mubarak - as well as the military. Not all Morsi opponents are secular. The ultra-conservative Salafists of the party Al-Nour, for example, also support Morsi's ouster. It was the armed forces which ousted Morsi on July 3 after days of mass protests, referring to the will of the people.

The opponents are mainly joined by their rejection of Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Politically, there are only few similarities.

What does the Muslim Brotherhood want?

The party wants to reinstate the elected president, Mohammed Morsi. The Muslim Brotherhood describes Morsi's ouster as a "military coup." It refuses to work together with the interim government under President Adly Mansour installed by the military, and snubbed its participation in a reconciliation conference on July 24 called by Mansour. "We refuse to recognize the current government," said Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Ahmed Arif. The party's spiritual leader, Mohammed Badie, stressed the peaceful nature of the opposition to Morsi's ouster. "The respectable Egyptian masses will peacefully defend their rights."

Mohammed Badie, Foto KHALED EL FIQI/dpa (zu dpa 0618 vom 25.11.2012) +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

In hiding: Mohammed Badie, the Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual leader

Badie has gone into hiding. Egypt's public prosecutor has issued a warrant for his arrest. Badie and at least 15 further Islamist leaders are accused of inciting violence. Many members of the Muslim Brotherhood are already in prison. Ousted president Morsi who had been in custody for weeks in a secret location, without a warrant or any contact to the outside world, according to media reports has now been charged with espionage and other crimes. The human rights organization Amnesty International had called his arrest "unlawful." In addition, security forces were using "excessive force" against Morsi supporters at demonstrations. Some 200 people have been killed since Morsi's ouster, most of them his supporters.

How has the security situation developed since Morsi was ousted?

The situation has gotten significantly worse. In addition to the nearly daily violence in battles between Morsi supporters and opponents, there have also been repeated terrorist attacks. The situation is particularly critical in the Sinai Peninsula. Islamist militants have regularly been attacking police stations and military checkpoints. To date, at least 30 people have been killed. The region has been considered a lawless zone for some time. Already under Mubarak, security forces lost control over parts of the Sinai Peninsula. Radicalized Bedouins discriminated against by the state, jihadists close to al Qaeda and smuggling gangs have been making trouble in the area for years.

But there have been attacks in other regions of the country, as well. On 24 July, a bomb exploded outside the main police headquarters in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura, wounding 19 people. Now fears are growing that the terror will spread across the country.

What role does the head of Egypt's military General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi play?

Many observers believe that el-Sissi, who is also deputy prime minister and defense minister, is the new strong man in the country. It was el-Sissi who ousted Mohammed Morsi and on 24 July, he called on Egyptians to take to the streets to give him "a mandate and command to end terrorism and violence."

Egypt's Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is seen during a news conference in Cairo May 22, 2013. EGYPT-PROTESTS/COMMANDER REUTERS/Stringer (EGYPT - Tags: MILITARY HEADSHOT POLITICS)

The man pulling the strings: military chief General Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi

El-Sissi did not name the Muslim Brotherhood. But media close to the government have reported that the Muslim Brotherhood was behind the terror on the Sinai Peninsula. The Muslim Brotherhood fears that el-Sissi wants to crack down even harder on them with the backing of mass demonstrations.

However, it is unclear whether el-Sissi and the military really want to seize lasting power. The military leader has repeatedly stressed that power should be handed over to an elected president as quickly as possible. Following Hosni Mubarak's overthrow in February 2011, Egypt was temporarily governed by a military council. The people's resentment towards the military grew significantly in that period.

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