Egyptian military chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called for nationwide rallies on Friday to grant him a mandate to fight what he termed violence and terrorism following the ousting of Islamist president Mohammad Mursi.
“I ask ... that next Friday all honest and trustworthy Egyptians must come out,” said Sisi, wearing dark sunglasses as he took to the podium on Wednesday to address a graduation ceremony of military cadets near Alexandria.
“Why come out? They come out to give me the mandate and order that I confront violence and potential terrorism.”
It was an apparent reference to a series of attacks by suspected Islamist militants in the Sinai Peninsula and the violence taking place nationwide between supporters and opponents of Mursi.
Almost 200 people have been killed in clashes since the days leading up to Mursi’s overthrow, with militants in Sinai also carrying out daily attacks on security forces, according to Associated Press.
Mursi’s Islamist backers have accused security forces of conspiring to blame them for the attacks.
In a statement, they warned of “an apparent plan by security and intelligence agencies to plot violent attacks to terrorize citizens and then attempt to link these incidents to the peaceful protesters.”
The authorities have accused Mursi’s supporters of employing violence since he was removed from power following mass protests against his rule.
General Sisi said Mursi’s aides had warned him that “if there is any problem, there will be lots of violence because of armed groups, to scare me.”
The powerful general denied accusations that he had betrayed Mursi and vowed to stick to a political roadmap that laid the way for a reform of the constitution and new elections within some six months.
He said his appeal for protests on Friday was not a call for violence and expressed support for efforts for national reconciliation.
Senior Muslim Brotherhood politician Essam al-Erian said the army’s call for rallies on Friday is a threat and will not stop pro-Mursi protests.
“Your threat will not stop the millions from continuing together,” El-Erian wrote on his Facebook page on Wednesday, calling Sisi “a coup leader who kills women, children and those at prayer.”
Egyptian youth movement Tamarud, which was behind the enormous protests against Mursi before his ouster, said it backed the army’s call Friday’ rallies.
“We call on the people to take to the streets on Friday to support their armed forces, which we support and are happy for it to play its role in confronting the violence and terrorism practiced by the Muslim Brotherhood,” Tamarud leader Mahmoud Badr told Reuters.
(With Reuters, AP, AFP)