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Egypt: PM vows to prevent election disruption - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Vehicles drive under electoral billboards featuring presidential candidate, Egypt's former defense minister Abdel Fattah al-Sissi in Cairo, Egypt, 18 May 2014. (EPA/KHALED ELFIQI)

Vehicles drive under electoral billboards featuring presidential candidate, Egypt’s former defense minister Abdel Fattah al-Sissi in Cairo, Egypt, 18 May 2014. (EPA/KHALED ELFIQI)

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab said on Sunday that the authorities would prevent any attempts to disrupt Egypt’s forthcoming presidential elections, a day after a bomb attack on an election rally injured four people.

At a news conference in Aswan province, Mahlab said the police and the army were able to provide security for the presidential elections, despite “the machinations .  .  . of terrorists.”

He claimed that the electoral process would be fully transparent and would be an example to the rest of the world.

Mahlab’s statement followed confirmation from official security sources that four people had been wounded in an explosion that targeted a public rally for presidential candidate Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi on Saturday in the Izbat Al-Nakhl district in eastern Cairo.

Eyewitnesses told Asharq Al-Awsat on Saturday that an unknown person hurled a bomb at police guarding the pro-Sisi rally, leaving four people, including two policemen, wounded. Civil defense forces and bomb disposal experts rushed to the scene of the blast, and the vicinity was combed by special forces and police dogs in search of any additional bombs.

Security sources said the explosive device was a 23 in-long (60 cm) pipe stuffed with gunpowder and nails and that it was thrown down onto the rally from a bridge.

Although an increasing number of terrorist attacks have struck Egypt since the ousting of Muslim Brotherhood-backed President Mohamed Mursi in July last year, this is the first reported attack on an election rally. Most other attacks have targeted army and police.

The Egyptian government blames the Muslim Brotherhood for the violence, saying it is linked to the militant groups that have carried out the attacks, something the organization—now banned in Egypt—denies.

In the wake of Saturday’s attack, and with the election scheduled for May 26-27 approaching, the Egyptian authorities are continuing to put additional security measures in place.

“A tight security plan will be in place during the presidential election in flashpoints in Cairo and other governorates which see regular protests by the Brotherhood,” an Interior Ministry source told Asharq Al-Awsat on Saturday.

The source added that the army and the police were capable of securing the elections using tight security measures to protect the polling stations and their outer periphery, as well as the roads leading to them, and added: “This is to provide a safe environment for citizens to be able to cast their ballots.”

A security source said that the Cairo districts of Ain Shams, Al-Matariya, Izbat Al-Nakhl and Nasr City (east), Al-Haram and Giza (west) and Helwan and Maadi (south) would witness tight security measures as supporters of the ousted president exist in large numbers in these areas and hold protests and marches on a daily basis.

The legal crackdown on the Brotherhood also continued on Sunday. The Kafr El-Sheikh Criminal Court sentenced 126 Brotherhood members to 10 years each in prison for resisting the authorities, assaulting policemen, incitement to riot and possessing weapons and ammunition in order to spread chaos in the governorate following the dispersal of the two pro-Mursi camps outside the Rabaa Al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo and at Al-Nahda Square in Giza in August 2013.

Similarly, the Shubra El-Kheimah Criminal Court sentenced 37 Brotherhood members to 15 years in jail with hard labor for their involvement in a plot to blow up a Giza subway station with homemade bombs.