Pallbearers carry the coffin of Chokri Belaid as thousands of Tunisians are gathered at el Jallez cemetary to attend the funerals of the slain opposition leader, near Tunis, Friday, Feb. 8, 2013. The Wednesday Feb. 6 assassination of prominent government critic Belaid plunged the country into one of its deepest political crises since the overthrow of the dictatorship in 2011. Watching the events in Tunisia, where a leading anti-Islamist politician was recently assassinated, members of Egypt's liberal opposition are fearfully asking, Could it happen here too? (AP Photo/Str)
Watching the events in Tunisia, where a leading anti-Islamist politician was shot to death this past week, members of Egypt's liberal opposition are fearfully asking: Could it happen here too?Read it all here.
Their fears of a renegade Islamist attack on any of the top opposition leaders have been hiked by religious edicts issued by hardline clerics on TV saying they must be killed. But even before those edicts, activists have been worried by signs they say show that ruling Islamists are starting to target their ranks - disappearances of activists from protests, telephone death threats, warnings from security officials.
Some in the opposition say there's no sure proof of a campaign, just worrisome patterns. But the fears point to how agitated the atmosphere has become in Egypt, with tempers hiked on both sides. The mainly liberal and secular opposition accuses Islamist President Mohammed Morsi of unleashing security forces to crush their protests against him. In turn, many Islamist backers of the president are convinced that the opposition is trying to topple a democratically elected leader by force.
In that environment, an assassination against a top opposition figure like that of Tunisia's Chokri Belaid could be explosive.
Authorities appear to recognize the potential danger. The government increased security at the homes of Egypt's top opposition figures, including Mohamed ElBaradei, a senior figure in the National Salvation Front. On Saturday, there was a startling moment when ElBaradei was getting into vehicle, tightly surrounded by bodyguards, and a middle aged man pushed toward him, shouting hysterically, "You'll wreck Egypt, you'll wreck Egypt" before guards pulled him aside.
And some in the Islamist camp are worried violence could disrupt their goal of installing an Islamic state in Egypt. Some of the hardest-line Islamist groups postponed pro-Morsi rallies planned for last Friday at the presidential palace, fearing collisions with opposition protesters.
"We are practicing extreme self-restraint," Mohammed al-Zawahri, who is the brother of al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri and is himself a prominent jihadi figure in Egypt, said in an earlier interview with The Associated Press.
Morsi's office, his prime minister and the Muslim Brotherhood - which forms the foundation of Morsi's rule - all condemned the edicts, or fatwas, calling for the killing of opposition figures. In one fatwa, an ultraconservative cleric, Mahmoud Shaaban, accused the Salvation Front's leaders of "setting Egypt on fire to gain power" and said the "verdict against them under God's law is death."
Some in the opposition, however, say the rhetoric of the Brotherhood and of Morsi's office fuels such threats by depicting opposition protesters as thugs and vandals and accusing the opposition's political leadership of using street violence to topple Morsi. The president has denounced opponents as "weevils eating away at the nation" and claimed to have recordings of the opposition plotting against his rule...