Egypt braces for rival rallies, army signals crackdown

Thu Jul 25, 2013 6:14pm EDT
 

By Yasmine Saleh and Matt Robinson

CAIRO (Reuters) - A deeply polarized Egypt braced for bloodshed on Friday in rival mass rallies summoned by the army that ousted the state's first freely elected president and by the Islamists who back him.

Both sides warned of a decisive struggle for the future of the Arab world's most populous country, convulsed by political and economic turmoil since the 2011 uprising that ended 30 years of autocratic rule by Hosni Mubarak.

Army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has called Egyptians into the streets to give the military a "mandate" to confront weeks of violence unleashed by his July 3 overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi.

A military official said the army had given Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood a Saturday deadline to end its resistance and join a military-set roadmap to fresh elections, signaling a turning-point in the confrontation.

The Brotherhood fears a crackdown to wipe out an Islamist movement that emerged from decades in the shadows to win every election since Mubarak's fall, but was brought down by the army after barely a year in government.

The movement, which has manned a street vigil for almost a month with thousands of followers demanding Mursi's return, has called its own counter-demonstrations. Confrontation appeared inevitable following a month of clashes in which close to 200 people, mainly supporters of Mursi, have died.

The army threatened to "turn its guns" on those who use violence. The Brotherhood warned of civil war.

"We will not initiate any move, but will definitely react harshly against any calls for violence or black terrorism from Brotherhood leaders or their supporters," the army official told Reuters.   Continued...

 
Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi shout slogans and close the roads during a protest in downtown Cairo July 22, 2013. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh