Egypt blacklists Hamas armed wing as ‘terror group’

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri rejects decision, says it is dangerous and serves Israel

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An Egyptian court ruled on Saturday to ban the armed wing of Palestine’s Hamas group and designated it as a terrorist organization, in a move that was slammed by the Islamist movement as "dangerous."

"The court ruled to ban the Qassam Brigades and to list it as a terrorist group," said Judge Mohammad al-Sayid of the special Cairo court which deals with urgent cases, according to Reuters news agency.

The case was based on allegations that the Qassam Brigades staged terrorist attacks to support the Muslim Brotherhood and carried out a bombing and shooting operation which killed 33 security personnel in the Sinai Peninsula in October of 2014.

Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood that Egypt listed as a terrorist group in 2013, was voted into power during 2007 elections in the neighboring Gaza Strip.

"We reject the Egyptian court's decision against the Qassam Brigades. It is a political, dangerous decision that serves only the Zionist [Israeli] occupation," Reuters quoted Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri as saying.

Egyptian officials say weapons are smuggled from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip into Egypt, where they end up with militant groups fighting to topple the Western-backed Cairo government.

Islamist militants in Egypt's Sinai region, which has a border with Gaza, have killed hundreds of police and soldiers since the political demise of Islamist president Mohammad Mursi. The insurgency has spread to other parts of Egypt, the most populous Arab country.

On Thursday night, four separate attacks on security forces in north Sinai were among the worst in years. The Egyptian wing of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Sinai Province, claimed the killing of at least 30 soldiers and police officers.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi brought a degree of stability to Egypt and the economy had started to recover from frequent political violence since a popular uprising four years ago that overthrew veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Then signs of discontent emerged in the past week. More than 25 people were killed last weekend when security forces fired at protesters.

Egyptian officials say the Brotherhood, Islamic State, Al Qaeda and Sinai Province, previously called Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, share the same ideology.

The Muslim Brotherhood says it is committed to peaceful activism despite facing one of the toughest crackdowns in its history.

Militant attacks in Sinai, while far from Cairo and tourist attractions, have hurt government efforts to project an image of stability to win back foreign investors and tourists.

On Saturday, a sniper wounded a soldier in a village in central Sinai, security sources told Reuters news agency. In northern Sinai, Islamist militant gunmen killed a Christian man suspected of cooperating with Egyptian authorities.

(With AFP, Reuters)

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