CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood has condemned attacks in the Sinai Peninsula that killed at least 33 security personnel on Friday but said President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was responsible for security failures.
The attacks are a setback for the government, which had managed over the past few months to make some progress in the struggle against an Islamist militant insurgency in the Sinai as it focuses on trying to repair the economy.
As army chief Sisi ousted elected President Mohamed Mursi of the Brotherhood in July 2013 after protests against his rule.
His government has since cracked down on Egypt’s oldest and most organised Islamist movement, throwing thousands of Mursi’s supporters in jail and labeling the group a terrorist organization. It draws no distinction between the Brotherhood and Islamist militants in the Sinai.
The Muslim Brotherhood says it is a peaceful movement and has consistently denied links to Islamist militant attacks against security forces, which have increased since the movement was removed from power.
In an e-mailed statement, the Brotherhood called the attacks a “massacre” and offered condolences to the victims’ families.
“The Muslim Brotherhood believes the shedding of blood of any Egyptian is forbidden. The group holds the junta and its leaders responsible for the continued failure in the security, economic and social fields, as experienced by all the people, especially the people of the Sinai,” the statement said.
The Muslim Brotherhood was propelled to power in 2012, winning Egypt’s first free elections after the 2011 uprising that removed Hosni Mubarak from power after 30 years.
Sisi ousted the Brotherhood’s Mursi from the presidency after one turbulent year in power. The former army chief went on to win a presidential election in May.
He said on Saturday that the attacks were an “existential threat” and Egypt has declared a state of emergency in North Sinai as it seeks to stem attacks.
Hundreds of police and soldiers have been killed in the last year.
Reporting By Maggie Fick; Editing by Lin Noueihed and Greg Mahlich