CAIRO, Qahirah (AFP) – Egypt’s army chief called Wednesday for mass rallies to back a crackdown on “terrorism and violence”, in comments quickly slammed as a “threat” by a senior Islamist who vowed to continue protests.
With tensions already running high following the army’s ouster of president Mohamed Morsi on July 3, the call by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for protests raises the prospect of further violent showdowns between the pro-and anti-Morsi camps.
“Next Friday, all honorable Egyptians must take to the street to give me a mandate and command to end terrorism and violence,” said Sisi, wearing dark sunglasses as he took to the podium to address a graduation ceremony of military cadets near Alexandria.
The general said that before he announced Morsi’s ouster, he had warned the Islamist president he must either resign or hold a referendum.
Huge crowds of Egyptians protested against Morsi on June 30, after just a single turbulent year of his presidency.
Presidential aides “told me if there is any problem there will be lots of violence because of armed groups, to scare me,” Sisi said.
Senior Muslim Brotherhood leader Essam al-Erian in a statement on his Facebook page said Morsi loyalists would not be intimidated by the army chief’s call for mass rallies.
“Your threat will not prevent millions from continuously protesting,” Erian said, referring to demonstrations by Morsi’s supporters which have continued non-stop since the Islamist leader was pushed aside by Sisi.
Nearly 170 people have died in political unrest in Egypt since the end of June, according to an AFP tally, many of them in clashes between Morsi’s supporters and opponents.
Sisi’s address came just hours after blast in front of a police station in Mansura in the Nile Delta, which Mohamed Sultan, head of the emergency services, told AFP left “28 wounded and one dead”.
The interior ministry said in a statement that a conscript was killed in the blast.