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CAIRO – An Egyptian politician who has opposed the military crackdown that has killed or jailed hundreds of Islamist supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi was surprised to find himself under a violent attack when he accidentally drove through a pro-Morsi protest march in Cairo.
Khaled Dawoud, the spokesman for the liberal al-Dustour party, was pulled out of his car and stabbed after one of the protesters recognized him, shouted his name and accused him of being in favor of the clampdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. The 46-year-old politician couldn't escape because he was stuck in a traffic jam.
Friday's assault highlights the complexity of the political situation in Egypt, which has suffered from two and a half years of turmoil and chaos following the 2011 revolution that forced autocrat Hosni Mubarak from power. It also raised concerns that the Arab world's most populous nation is falling into a cycle of revenge attacks and random violence as the Brotherhood organization is frayed with its top leaders in prison or on the run.
"Those who resort to violence and killing fail to understand the lessons of history," Dawoud told The Associated Press from his hospital bed Saturday, where his left hand was wrapped in layers of bandages after his attackers tried to cut his wrist. His face bruised, Dawoud described how one man from the angry mob in the protest also stabbed him in his side, slightly missing his heart, twice.
Dawoud served as the main speaker for the National Salvation Front, the opposition grouping that had rallied against Morsi in the lead up to the massive protests against the Islamist leader that led to the military coup that toppled him on July 3.
But while he supported the military's intervention, Dawoud publicly opposed the decision to violently raze two pro-Morsi sit-in camps in Cairo, a move that killed more than 600 protesters and sparked nationwide clashes that left hundreds more dead.
He resigned in mid-August as NSF spokesman after the group praised the security agencies for their role in the violent dispersal of the camps.
Egypt's vice president at the time, Mohammed ElBaradei, and the founder of al-Dustour party, also resigned over the bloodshed.
Dawoud has continued to speak out in weekly columns in favor of reconciling with the Brotherhood and integrating them into Egypt's political road map, backing initiatives calling for it. He also makes regular TV appearances despite a backlash, with Islamists still threatening him on social media sites
"I was told several times ... 'Whatever you do, your hands will always be covered in Muslim Brotherhood blood," he recalled. "It is a big sin in itself for them" that he backed removing Morsi.
He said Friday's attack will not change his stance.
"I still don't approve of resorting to arbitrary violence" against any political forces, he said. "We want the rule of law. Human blood is precious. This is why we did our revolution. We want Egyptians to live for the sake of the country, not to die for it."
The Brotherhood political arm, the Freedom and Justice party, condemned the attack, denouncing "all acts of violence, even against those who supported the military coup."
Dawoud rebuffed the condemnation, and questioned the peaceful nature of the pro-Morsi protests, adding that the attack against him was "a clear attempt to kill me."
A group of 10 young men started smashing the car's windows before one stabbed his left side with a 15-centimeter (6 inch) dagger.
"Another guy told me 'we will cut off your hands' and started sawing my left hand back and forth", Dawoud added.
A few bystanders came to his rescue, breaking up the mob and capturing the man with dagger.
"It was a miserable day. There was no ambulance and I had to walk for 10 minutes to the hospital," Dawoud said. "Every step I took I thought I was going to die. I was bleeding from everywhere."