Egypt’s army chief calls for countrywide rallies
General Sisi seeks mandate to tackle ‘violence and terrorism’ through protests
Supporters of deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi chant slogans during a rally around the Raba El-Adwyia mosque square in Cairo yesterday. Egypt’s military chief, Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, called for mass rallies tomorrow to give him a mandate to tackle violence that has surged following the overthrow of the Islamist president, ramping up pressure on the Muslim Brotherhood. Photograph: Reuters/Asmaa Waguih
Egypt’s armed forces chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi has called for countrywide rallies on Friday to grant the military and police a mandate to tackle “violence and terrorism”.
He launched his appeal yesterday after gunmen shot dead a soldier in Sinai; a bomb killed a policeman in the Nile Delta; and two Muslim Brotherhood supporters were reportedly killed at a Cairo march demanding reinstatement of President Mohamed Morsi. Three militants died later when their explosive- rigged car exploded before reaching a police training centre in Sinai. At least 120 people have died since Mr Morsi was ousted on July 3rd.
Senior Brotherhood official Essam el-Erian criticised the general’s call for demonstrations against “terrorism” and said that “millions will continue to gather to say no to the coup leaders”. He charged the general with killing “women and children and those at prayer”, a reference to a clash on July 8th that left 51 Brotherhood supporters dead.
Brotherhood spokesman Gehad el-Haddad accused Gen Sisi of “orchestrating a massacre” by urging the anti-Morsi camp to take to the streets while Brotherhood supporters were protesting and called for him to be hailed before the International Criminal Court. Mr Haddad told al-Jazeera the military leadership is more violent than under the regime of ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
The Tamarod (Rebel) movement, which mounted the massive June 30th protests that brought down Mr Morsi, backed the general’s appeal, urging Egyptians to play their role in “confronting the violence and terrorism practised by the . . . Brotherhood”.
Addressing graduating military officers in Alexandria, Gen Sisi denied Brotherhood accusations he had deceived and betrayed Mr Morsi before toppling him. The army command “advised the former president several times” about assuming total power without consulting other forces” but this advice was ignored. Just ahead of his ousting, Mr Morsi “was advised, directly and indirectly, to step down or to hold a referendum to see if the people want him or not,” said the general.
“I made it clear that the army was under his command . . . only if he was granted legitimacy by the people.” The military and the caretaker government, he said, “are not retreating from the roadmap we adopted” which provides for amendments to the constitution and parliamentary and presidential elections.
The general, who is also defence minister, urged all political factions “to join the drive for national reconciliation” rejected by the Muslim Brotherhood, allies in the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, and the ultraconservative Nour party.
The initial reconciliation gathering, hosted by interim president Adly Mansour, was attended by the secular National Salvation Front, the Wafd party and the Egyptian Social Democratic party. They met as thousands of Brotherhood supporters demanding Mr Morsi’s reinstatement continued their sit-ins at Rabaa al-Adawiya Square in Nasr City and Nahda Square outside Cairo University in Giza. However, a poll conducted last weekend showed 71 per cent of Egyptians do not sympathise with the Brotherhood’s campaign to return Mr Morsi, with a 77 per cent disapproval rating in urban areas and 67 per cent in rural communities.
Deteriorating security has prompted attacks on Coptic Christians and Shias. On July 5th near Luxor, four Coptic men were killed, many injured and homes looted and burned.