Cairo: Widening its crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters, Egypt’s interim government designated the group a “terrorist organisation”, banning all its activities, protests and gatherings and seizing control of the assets of its charitable organisations.
Its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, is also banned, the deputy prime minister Hossam Eissa said in a statment, confirming that Brotherhood members, along with those who financed and promoted its activities would face punishment.
The military-backed government has overseen the mass arrest of thousands of members and supporters of the Brotherhood as well as the deaths of more than 1000 protesters since Mohamed Mursi was deposed as president on July 3, human rights groups say.
Just a day ago, the former prime minister Hisham Qandil, who served in Mr Mursi’s government although he is not a member of the Brotherhood, was also arrested.
The announcement comes a day after a huge car bomb exploded in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura, killing 16 people – mostly police officers – and injuring more than 140.
"Egypt was horrified from north to south by the hideous crime committed by the Muslim Brotherhood group," the BBC reported Mr Eissa as saying.
"This was in context of dangerous escalation to violence against Egypt and Egyptians and a clear declaration by the Muslim Brotherhood group that it still knows nothing but violence.
"It's not possible for Egypt the state nor Egypt the people to submit to the Muslim Brotherhood terrorism."
The Brotherhood denied it was involved in the attack and condemned the violence in a statement, while an al-Qaeda linked group from the Sinai Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for the blast.
The Mansoura attack was the latest in a campaign of violence directed against Egypt’s police and security forces that the government has blamed on the Brotherhood.
In November car bomb killed 10 soldiers in the Sinai, and 24 policemen died in an ambush in August.
Supporters of Mr Mursi, who has been jailed since his downfall, have staged almost daily protests since his arrest and say they are committed to peaceful demonstrations until he is returned to power.
Last week prosecutors ordered Mr Mursi and other Brotherhood leaders to stand trial on charges including working with foreign militants to carry out terrorist attacks in Egypt – charges the Brotherhood denies.
A day before the cabinet’s late night announcement declaring the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation, the United Nations expressed concern at the deteriorating political climate in Egypt.
“Under the controversial new law regulating protests, three prominent democracy and human rights activists were sentenced to three years in prison on Sunday, and Egyptian authorities last week raided a human rights organisation,” a spokesman for the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said.
“The Secretary-General reminds Egyptian officials that freedom of assembly and expression are essential elements for credible elections.”
Ahmed el-Borai, the minister of social solidarity, said the cabinet would also notify other Arab states that are signatories to international conventions against terrorism.
The Brotherhood is a transnational movement, with operations across the world in countries such as Tunisia, Jordan, Gaza, Kuwait, Morocco, Algeria, Syria and Libya.
It was banned by Egypt’s military government in 1954, forcing it to operate underground for much of its 85-year-history.