CAIRO – Egypt’s military commander deepened his role in the nation’s turbulent politics Wednesday by calling for mass demonstrations to support an army crackdown on “violence and terrorism” that have spread since a coup overthrew President Mohamed Morsi.
The comments by Gen. Abdel Fattah Sisi, commander of the armed forces, appeared to be a move to isolate Islamist supporters of Morsi and his deposed Muslim Brotherhood. It was also aimed stemming at militant attacks against security forces in the Sinai Peninsula that have left dozens dead since Morsi’s ouster July 3.
“I request that all Egyptians next Friday ... go down [to the streets] to give me a mandate and an order to confront possible violence and terrorism," Sisi said during a military graduation ceremony in Alexandria.
Clashes in Cairo and other cities between pro-Morsi and anti-Morsi protesters have killed more than 90 people nationwide in recent weeks, raising fears of widening factional fighting if the Brotherhood refuses to disband its sit-ins and end its marches. Sisi suggested in his speech that the military was forced to act against Morsi after months of unrest.
“I did not deceive the former president,” said Sisi, who has been vilified by Islamists for unseating Egypt’s first freely elected leader. “The former president was advised, directly and indirectly, either to step down or hold a referendum to see if the people want him or not.”
Islamists regarded Sisi’s call for demonstrators as a provocative warning to the Brotherhood, even though the general said the army would not interfere in politics.
The general’s comments confirmed “that what happened was a coup against legitimacy, a coup against Islam,” said Sheikh Ibrahim El Menei, head of a tribal union in the Sinai Peninsula. “I never expected to hear what we heard today; it’s an open call for war. Today, what was hidden has been revealed. ... The military has bared its fangs.”
Special correspondent Ingy Hassieb contributed to this report.