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Saudis target Muslim Brotherhood

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia identified the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group along with Al Qaeda and others Friday, warning those who join them or support them they could face five to 30 years in prison.

A Saudi Interior Ministry statement said King Abdullah approved the findings of a committee entrusted with identifying extremist groups referred to in a royal decree earlier last month. The decree punishes those who fight in conflicts outside the kingdom or join extremist groups or support them. The king’s decree followed the kingdom enacting a sweeping new counterterrorism law that targets virtually any criticism of the government.

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The Muslim Brotherhood has been targeted by many Gulf nations since the July 3 military overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in Egypt, himself a Brotherhood member. Saudi Arabia has banned Brotherhood books from the ongoing Riyadh book fair and withdrew its ambassador from Qatar, a Brotherhood supporter, along with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

In a statement, the Muslim Brotherhood condemned Saudi Arabia’s decision.

‘‘It is one of the founding principles of the group not to interfere in matters of other states, and this new position from the kingdom is a complete departure from the past relationship with the group, since the reign of the founding king until now,’’ the statement read.

Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdel-Attie praised the decision, saying it ‘‘reflects the coordination and solidarity’’ between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. He said he hopes that other countries make the same decision. ‘‘We expect other countries to fulfill their responsibilities in the fight against terrorism,’’ Abdel-Attie told journalists Friday.

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