Egypt’s interim government has declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation, a move that gives authorities greater freedom to crack down on the group.
Hossam Eissa, a deputy prime minister, announced the decision on Wednesday night after a lengthy cabinet meeting.
“The cabinet has declared the Muslim Brotherhood and its organisation as a terrorist organisation,” he said.
The cabinet’s announcement came one day after a deadly car bombing outside a police headquarters in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura. Fourteen people were killed in the blast, most of them officers, and more than 150 others were wounded.
A Sinai-based militant group, Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, claimed responsibility for the blast in a statement published online on Wednesday.
But the government blamed the Brotherhood for the attack, though it provided no evidence connecting the group to the attack.
The Brotherhood’s London press office issued a statement on Tuesday that “strongly condemned” the bombing.
“Egypt suffered an ugly crime committed by the Muslim Brotherhood,” Eissa said. “It is a clear declaration from [the group], which has not known anything but violence since its beginning.”
The Brotherhood has staged near-daily protests since President Mohamed Morsi was ousted by the army in July following widespread popular protests. Thousands of its members have been killed and jailed since then, and the group has faced mounting legal problems.
In September, a court ordered the Brotherhood banned and its assets seized, a decision that was upheld on appeal in November.
Wednesday’s decision takes the ban a step further: Under the Egyptian penal code, members of the Brotherhood could now face up to five years in prison simply for belonging to the group.
Morsi himself is already in prison, facing charges that include espionage and terrorism. Most of the Brotherhood’s leadership has also been jailed since the coup.
Ahmed el-Borai, the minister of social solidarity, said that the cabinet also would notify other Arab states which are signatories to international conventions against terrorism.
The Brotherhood has sister organisations, and extensive fundraising operations, in many countries around the region.