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Egypt Arrests 54 Suspected of Planning Violence on Uprising Anniversary

FILE - Policemen stand guard on the anniversary of the 2011 uprising in Tahrir Square in the Haram district of Cairo, Egypt, Jan. 25, 2016.

Egyptian security forces have arrested 54 people, including suspected members of the Muslim Brotherhood, for planning to hold protests and commit violence on the anniversary of the 2011 uprising, the interior ministry said on Tuesday.

The ministry said in a statement that the group was directed by a Muslim Brotherhood leader based in Turkey and that money and sabotage equipment were found in its possession.

“Information has become available... that escaped leaders of the (Muslim Brotherhood) were implementing a plot to create a state of chaos in the country during the months of January and February, to coincide with the anniversary of the 25 January revolution,” the statement said.

The 2011 popular uprising overthrew longserving autocrat Hosni Mubarak. A year later, the Muslim Brotherhood came to power in Egypt’s first modern free election, but in 2013 the army removed the Brotherhood. The movement has since been banned and its leaders arrested.

The Egyptian authorities link the Brotherhood to an Islamist insurgency in the Sinai peninsula and have repeatedly blamed it for attacks. The Brotherhood denies any connection to militants and says its political aims are peaceful.

Tuesday’s statement identified the Brotherhood figure behind the planned attacks as Yasser al-Omda and said he had set up an organisation called Allahuma Thawra. Members of the group were planning to “cut roads, disrupt traffic, and try to spread chaos and terrify citizens”, it added.

The statement did not identify any of those arrested, but said legal measures were being taken against them in coordination with the state security prosecutor.