Army chief calls on Egyptians for rallies to fight `terror`
Cairo: Egypt`s powerful Army chief on Wednesday appealed to people to hold nationwide rallies on Friday and give him a mandate to crush "terrorism and violence" by supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.
"I urge the people to take to the streets this coming Friday to prove their will and give me, the army and police, a mandate to confront possible violence and terrorism," Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said.
"Nevertheless this does not mean I am advocating for violence or terrorism," El-Sisi, who is also the Defence Minister, said in a speech at a military graduation ceremony in Alexandria broadcast live on state television.
He rejected rumours about divisions within the army ranks. "I swear by God that the Egyptian Army is united," he said.
Morsi`s supporters immediately accused El-Sisi of betraying and conspiring against the Islamist leader, calling the Army`s move to remove him from power on July 3 a "military coup".
"I did not deceive the former president," El-Sisi said, denying accusations of his betrayal.
"We advised the former president several times since the November Constitutional declaration," he said, adding that his advice was ignored by Morsi.
"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," El-Sisi stated.
"I made it clear that the Army is under his commandership only as the president according to the legitimacy he was granted from the people," El-Sisi added.
Reacting to the El-Sisi`s call for mass demonstrations, senior Muslim Brotherhood leader Essam al-Erian said they would not be intimidated.
"Your threat will not prevent millions from continuously protesting," Erian said in a statement.
Meanwhile, deadly clashes between the supporters and the opposition of Morsi have left 13 people dead and over 80 injured since Monday.
The military ousted Morsi, 61, on July 3 following days of massive street protests by millions of Egyptians demanding that the Islamist president step down.
His supporters are calling for his reinstatement and insist they would not join the military-backed political process until then.
The interim government had announced on July 3 that
presidential elections will be held within six months to end the political turmoil in Egypt.
"We are ready to have the whole world supervise the elections, including the UN and the EU," El-Sisi said.
"We are not retreating from the roadmap we adopted."
"I call on all political powers to join the efforts for national reconciliations," the commander-in-chief said ahead of the first session of reconciliation talks starting today.
However, Muslim Brotherhood, the group from which Morsi hails, said it will not attend the first round of national conciliation under the auspices of interim President Adly Mansour.
A number of Islamist groups and parties that form the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy also decided to boycott the meeting.
The meeting will be attended by several political forces, including the National Salvation Front, the Wafd Party and the Egyptian Social Democratic Party.
Thousands of Morsi supporters are holding an ongoing sit-in at Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square in Cairo and Nahda Square in Giza demanding his reinstatement.
More than 100 people have been killed in violent clashes since Morsi`s removal, pitting his supporters against his opponents and security forces.
The clashes late that night saw the use of birdshot, gunfire and molotov cocktails, witnesses said. Police then intervened, firing tear gas to disperse the crowd.
The Muslim Brotherhood blamed "thugs" and police for the deaths.
"El-Sisi and the intelligence are instructing the interior ministry to commit those crimes against peaceful protesters who are being punished for merely saying no to the military coup," Brotherhood leading member Mohamed El-Beltagy said.
El-Sisi`s call comes a few hours after an explosive device went off at a police station near the security directorate in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura, the capital of Daqahliya governorate, killing at least one and injuring 19 yesterday.
The call created instant panic among social media users as people started speaking about the start of a civil war.
Some people likened the situation to the standoff back in 1956 between the Muslim Brotherhood and then President Gamal Abdel Nasser which ended in him dissolving the Brotherhood and banning it.
Meanwhile, revolutionaries said the statement by El-Sisi signals a new phase of fascism as a clamp down on freedom of speech and protests will be inevitable.
Since his ouster, Morsi has been held at an undisclosed location, without charge.
The family of Morsi yesterday accused the powerful military of "abducting" the Islamist leader and vowed to take legal action against the Army chief.
Several countries, including the US, have called for Morsi`s release.
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