Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Egyptian Army Chief Calls for Help to Fight 'Terrorism' of the Muslim Brotherhood

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Egyptian Army Chief Calls for Help to Fight 'Terrorism' of the Muslim Brotherhood

Article excerpt

The head of Egypt's armed forces today called for mass protests to give him a mandate to confront "violence and terrorism," escalating the military's confrontation with the Muslim Brotherhood three weeks after removing former President Mohamed Morsi from power.

Speaking at a military graduation ceremony broadcast on state television, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, in full uniform and wearing dark sunglasses, called on Egyptians to take to the streets on Friday. "Come out to give me the mandate and order to confront violence and potential terrorism," he said.

His words hint at a broader, harsher crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, which has staged an ongoing sit-in in Cairo and large protests around the country since Mr. Morsi's ouster, demanding he be reinstated and refusing to negotiate until he is. It also raises questions about the military's influence over Egypt's interim government.

The Brotherhood fears a repeat of the 1950s, when then-President Gamal Abdel Nasser tried Brotherhood leaders and imprisoned thousands of members, pushing the group underground. With Morsi detained incommunicado since July 3, many top Brotherhood leaders arrested or wanted, and hundreds of lower-ranking members arrested, the Brotherhood, after a year and a half in the unfamiliar role of ruling party, is back on familiar ground as an oppressed group.

And the general's call for support for a campaign against the Brotherhood may find wide approval after weeks of glowing media coverage of the military and building public anger against the Brotherhood amid accusations of instigating violence.

"He's asking the people for a blank check to start violence and escalation against these protesters," says Emad Shahin, a professor of public policy at the American University in Cairo. "It's very clear that he's actually inviting, and not preempting, escalation and direct clashes between protesters."

But Dr. Shahin says Sisi's speech likely also heralds a crackdown not just on the Muslim Brotherhood but on anyone who opposes the military coup.

"I think in essence what you are going through is really a decisive battle between a democratic future and military rule," he says.

The Muslim Brotherhood appeared to remain defiant, announcing plans for 34 protest marches in Cairo alone on Friday. Muslim Brotherhood leader Essam El Erian quickly labeled the speech a threat directed at the Brotherhood.

"Your threats will not prevent millions to protest against the coup," he said in a post on Facebook.

Sisi's speech comes after several days of rising violence in Cairo and the Delta, north of the capital. Early Wednesday morning a bomb exploded outside a security headquarters in Mansoura, in the Nile Delta region, killing one and injuring more than two dozen others. Fourteen people died in clashes on Monday and Tuesday between Morsi's supporters and opponents. …

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