Egypt claims seizure of 101 surface-to-surface missiles amid fears of violence


The Egyptian authorities have seized 101 surface-to-surface missiles in the Beheira governorate, the state TV reported on Tuesday, amid fears of a political deadlock that could trigger an armed confrontation between Islamist groups and a military establishment reluctant to relinquish power.

The state television said Egypt’s Anti-Drug General Administration discovered the missiles, a launching pad, and dozens of hand guns loaded in two cars. The suspects were detained and an investigation has been launched, the television added.

Sameh Rashed, political analyst of Al-Ahram Institute, told Al Arabiya that security forces occasionally seize arms shipments smuggled from Libya or other countries and destined to the Gaza Strip or Sinai.

He played down any connection between the seizure of the weapons and a broiling political crisis that threatens to plunge the country into turmoil.

Recent moves by the ruling military council to dissolve the Islamist-dominated parliament and issue a constitutional document which hands it sweeping powers have raised fears of violence.

Even the Pentagon, the traditional ally of the generals in Egypt, expressed “deep concern” about the military’s plan to stay in power.

“We’re deeply concerned about new amendments to the constitution declaration, including the timing of their announcements as polls were closing for the presidential election,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said on Monday.

On Sunday, several Algerian Islamist leaders warned Egypt could plunge into an “Algeria like scenario” of bloody violence after the ruling military council executed a court order to dissolve the country’s elected parliament.

Algeria experienced a decade-long civil war which witnessed exceptional savagery and bloody violence when the military intervened in 1992 to unseat President Chadli Bendjedid and cancel the second round of an election after the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) won the first round.

Former FIS founder el-Hachemi Sahnouni described events in Egypt in the past few days “as an explicit coup against the people’s will, and it would only bring about evil regardless of what the military council says.”

Sahnouni told Al Arabiya that he was “worried that the biggest Arab country might plunge into violence similar to what occurred in Algeria.”

“If this happens, it will be a catastrophe not only for Egypt but for all of the Arab countries.”

Abdallah Djaballah, the founder of the Justice and Development Front, meanwhile, said that the Egyptian military was receiving “outside” instructions to stop Islamists from taking power.

“The dissolution of Egypt’s People’s Assembly clearly indicates the presence of a strong will within the military council and among influential individuals, with foreign instructions, to stop the Muslim Brotherhood, in particular, and the Egyptian revolution, in general.”

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood movement itself warned in March 2012 that the country could experience an Algerian like scenario if “other forces” tried to “block the Islamic trend.”

“If the Islamic trend tries to become dominant in positions of authority, we could encounter big problems,” said Mohamed el-Beltagi, Brotherhood leader, according to Egypt Independent.

“If the other forces strive to block or censor the Islamic trend we will encounter a bigger problem,” he added.

(Written by Mustapha Ajbaili)