Egypt blames Muslim Brotherhood for metro fare protests
The head of the Cairo metro on Saturday accused the blacklisted Islamist movement of stirring up protests against the unpopular austerity measure, local media reported.
"A group of Brotherhood members at metro stations is behind the calls for protests," Ahmad Abdel Hadi said.
"Some people objecting to the price hike jumped over the turnstiles. But they have only been around 50 individuals," Abdel Hadi added.
Egyptian officials have often blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for unrest since a 2013 military coup ousted the country's first freely elected president, Mohamed Morsi of the Brotherhood.
Egyptian authorities have banned the Brotherhood and led a harsh crackdown on its members and supporters, arresting and killing thousands.
Egyptian police say they have arrested 21 people for participating in the protests against the surprise decision to hike metro fares as part of austerity measures meant to overhaul the economy.
The arrests took place two days after the government announced the second round of subway fare hikes since March 2017.
The hikes were by up to 250 percent, raising fares from two to up to seven Egyptian pounds depending on the number of stations commuters travel.
Videos circulating online show dozens of outraged commuters yelling and chanting anti-government slogans at Cairo metro stations, with some jumping over electronic ticket gates to avoid paying fares.
Other videos showed plainclothes policemen scuffling with protesters while trying to arrest them.
One showed a woman berating the men at the station for not being brave enough to challenge the hikes.
Although small, Saturday's protests were the first by Egyptians angered by the government's austerity measures, which started in 2014 but escalated after a deal was struck in 2016 with the International Monetary Fund for a $12 billion loan.
The government said the latest hike in metro fares was designed to secure maintenance funds for the poorly-maintained network as its owning company, which has been operating in the red for years, grapples with mounting debts.
Nearly 5 million people a day in the city of some 20 million use the Cairo metro.