CAIRO (AP) — Joined by Egypt’s top interim leaders, Egypt’s military chief led a funeral procession Friday for a police general killed in a raid on an Islamist stronghold near Cairo, aiming to show a national front against supporters of the ousted Islamist president.
Draped in the Egyptian flag, the coffin of slain police Gen. Nabil Farrag was carried by an ambulance, preceded by lines of marching policemen and a police band with drums.
Military Apache helicopters hovered overhead as Egypt’s powerful defense minister, Gen. Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi, led the heavily guarded funeral, joined by army Chief of Staff Sedki Sobhi, interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi and Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim, who heads the police forces, as well as top Muslim and Christian religious figures.
Hundreds of Egyptian men and women poured in from behind to join the funeral procession.
El-Sissi’s presence appeared aimed at giving a high profile to Farrag’s death in a battle Thursday between security forces and Islamists, as the interim government brands its battle against the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted president Mohammed Morsi’s supporters “a war against terrorism.”
Political analyst Ammar Ali Hassan said el-Sissi was sending a message that “it is time for them to admit defeat.”
Over the past week, security forces backed by the military have moved to break up strongholds of Morsi’s supporters, following a weeks-long crackdown and arrest campaign against leaders of the ousted president’s Muslim Brotherhood and more than 2,000 of its members.
The moves have hurt the group’s ability to organize protests, and calls for pro-Morsi demonstrations Friday failed to bring in large crowds
The militants’ takeover of towns and killing of senior police officers have stained the Muslim Brotherhood’s image even among the most outspoken rights advocates.
Farrag was killed Thursday when security forces and troops stormed Kerdasa, a town outside Cairo near the Pyramids that armed Islamist hard-liners took over last month.
A security official said that security forces are in control of Kerdasa, where the military installed checkpoints at the town’s entrances. He said 87 suspects have been rounded up while security forces continued searches Friday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
“I am the last one who can defend the police repressive practices,” said Ziad el-Oleimi, a former lawmaker and a rights advocate. “But what happened in Kerdasa can’t be tolerated by the state. An armed extremist group took control of a city and led terrorist acts.”
Militants took control of Kerdasa in mid-August, when a mob attacked the local police station, killed 15 policemen and mutilated their bodies, dragging some by cars, scalping at least one and pouring acid on another.
It was part of a wave of retaliatory violence after security forces cracked down on the main pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo with heavy assaults that killed hundreds and sparked days of violence.
Earlier this week, a large army-police force stormed Dalga, a town in southern Egypt, to break the hold of Islamic militants who took control there after Morsi’s ouster.