Egyptian general issues ultimatum to politicians
Obama urges Muslim Brotherhood to work with opposition after Islamists’ HQ attacked
Millions of protesters swarmed into the streets yesterday to demand the resignation of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
Young revolutionaries united with liberal and leftist opposition parties in a massive show of defiance on the first anniversary of Mr Morsi’s inauguration on yesterday, chanting “the people demand the fall of the regime”.
The demonstrations, which brought half a million people to Cairo’s central Tahrir Square and a similar crowd in the second city, Alexandria, were easily the largest since the Arab Spring uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
After dawn, young men were still preventing traffic entering Tahrir Square but only hundreds of people remained, some resting under makeshift awnings.
Mr Morsi, the most populous Arab state’s first freely elected leader, stayed out of sight throughout the protests but acknowledged through a spokesman that he had made mistakes while adding that he was working to fix them and was open to dialogue.
He showed no sign of quitting.
An aide to Mr Morsi said he was “encouraged” that events had unfolded mostly peacefully : “This is another day of democratic practice that we all cherish,” he said in a statement.
He accused the opposition of being vague in its demands and outlined three ways forward: first, parliamentary elections, which he called “the most obvious”; second, national dialogue, which he said opponents had repeatedly rejected; and third, early presidential elections, as demanded by protesters.
But that, he said, “simply destroys our democracy”.
The massive protests showed that the ruling Muslim Brotherhood has not only alienated liberals and secularists by seeking to entrench Islamic rule but has also angered millions of ordinary Egyptians with economic mismanagement.
Tourism and investment have dried up, inflation is rampant and fuel supplies are running short, with power cuts lengthening in the summer heat.
Dozens of militants attacked the Brotherhood’s national headquarters in Cairo with shotguns, petrol bombs and rocks, setting it on fire, and targeted offices of its political party across the country.
There was no sign of police or fire service protection for the Brotherhood’s head office, where witnesses said guards inside the building fired on the attackers. Two people died and 11 were injured in that clash, hospital sources said.
Protest organisers called on Egyptians to keep occupying central squares across the country in a campaign of peaceful civil disobedience until Mr Morsi quits.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators stayed in Tahrir Square long after midnight, appearing to heed the call for a sit-in. But as the working day began, only hundreds remained.