CAIRO — Egypt’s military chief called for mass rallies on Friday to give him a mandate to confront violence following the overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, appearing to raise the pressure on the Muslim Brotherhood.
General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who deposed Mursi on July 3 and replaced his government with an interim administration, also promised today that there would be no retreat from the army-backed roadmap that envisions parliamentary elections in about six months.
“I request that all Egyptians next Friday … go down (into the street) to give me a mandate and an order to confront possible violence and terrorism,” he told a military graduation ceremony in remarks broadcast live by state media. Sisi also urged national reconciliation after months of upheaval.
A senior member of Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement, Essam El-Erian, said Sisi’s appeal represented a threat, adding that it would not halt Islamist protests urging the immediate restoration of the president.
“Your threat will not prevent millions from continuing to gather,” Erian wrote on Facebook.
By contrast, the Tamarud youth group, which last month brought millions onto the streets of Egypt to denounce Mursi’s first year in office, said on Facebook that it supported Sisi.
“We call all the great Egyptian people to gather in the squares of Egypt this Friday and to call officially for the prosecution of Mohamed Mursi and to support the Egyptian armed forces in its coming war on terrorism,” the movement wrote.
A Western diplomat in Cairo, who declined to be named, said Sisi’s appeal represented a risky gambit for the Arab world’s biggest nation.
“We have seen an increase in violence when the two sides come together,” he said.
Sisi’s speech followed an overnight bomb attack on a police station in Mansoura, 110 kilometre north of Cairo, that killed one person and wounded two dozen others.
A government spokesman condemned it as a terrorist attack. (Reuters)