CAIRO — Egyptian police have arrested two leaders of an Islamist party, the latest to be swept up in a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies, while the European Union's foreign policy chief was to meet with officials in Cairo on Monday in an attempt to mediate an end to the political deadlock.
Catherine Ashton's visit to the Egyptian capital is her second this month, a sign of the alarm felt in the West over the continuing bloodshed.
More than 260 people have been killed since the July 3 coup that deposed Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. The bloodiest incident took place over the weekend, with at least 83 of his supporters killed in clashes with police.
Human Rights Watch and field doctors interviewed by The Associated Press said it appears many were killed by gunshots to the head and chest.
The incident, which the Brotherhood has described as a "massacre," came after millions took the streets to show their support for Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. He had called for a mandate of popular support to deal with violence and "potential terrorism" — a thinly veiled reference to expected crackdowns on Morsi supporters who are holding sit-in camps in Cairo.
The coup itself also followed days of mass protests by millions of Egyptians demanding that Morsi step down after a year in office as Egypt's first elected president.
Several Brotherhood leaders and other prominent Islamists have been imprisoned since Morsi's ouster, with two figures from the Brotherhood-allied Wasat Party arrested and taken to Tora prison late Sunday. Security officials said that Abul-Ela Madi and Essam Soltan, who faced arrest warrants on allegations they incited violence, were found hiding in a home in a Cairo neighborhood located near the main protest site of Morsi's supporters.
Morsi himself has been held incommunicado by the military since his ouster. Last week prosecutors announced they had launched an investigation into the ousted president on charges of murder and conspiring with the Palestinian militant group Hamas to carry out an attack on a prison during the 2011 uprising against Mubarak.
The jailbreak allegedly led to the deaths of inmates and broke Morsi and around 30 other members of the group out of detention.
In a bid to try and mediate a solution to the crisis, the EU's Ashton has planned meeting with both sides Monday, speaking early in the day with Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy.
Islamists led by the Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails, staunchly reject the new leadership and insist the only possible solution to the crisis is to reinstate him. Meanwhile, the interim leadership is pushing ahead with a fast-track transition plan to return to a democratically elected government by early next year.
In a statement before arriving to Cairo, Ashton said she is going to speak to all sides to reinforce that "there must be a fully inclusive transition process, taking in all political groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood."
"I will also repeat my call to end all violence. I deeply deplore the loss of life," she said.
According to the statement from Ashton's office, she will be meeting with President Adly Mansour, Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei and el-Sissi.
The Brotherhood's political wing says four of its member and Morsi's ex-prime minister Hesham Kandil are holding talks with Ashton as well.
Divisions between pro and anti-Morsi camps have played out in nearly daily street battles, with a dozen homes catching fire in Cairo late Sunday. Security officials said that no one was injured when the ousted president's supporters threw Molotov cocktails from atop a main overpass onto homes and opponents below.
All officials spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.