x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Army supremo behind Egypt’s takeover says Islamist warned of deadly violence

Gen Abdel Fattah El Sisi says deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood warned of 'terrorist and violent attacks' that nobody would be able to control.

Cairo university students and members of the Muslim Brotherhood demonstrate against the military in front of Cairo University. Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuters
Cairo university students and members of the Muslim Brotherhood demonstrate against the military in front of Cairo University. Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuters

CAIRO // The army chief behind the military takeover in Egypt said the Muslim Brotherhood had warned him of attacks if Islamist president Mohammed Morsi were removed from power, an Egyptian newspaper reported on Tuesday.

In an interview with private daily Al Masry Al Youm, Gen Abdel Fattah El Sisi was quoting as saying he had met Khairat Al Shater, deputy leader of Mr Morsi’s Brotherhood, on June 25, five days before the mass protests that led to Mr Morsi’s removal on July 3.

“Shater threatened terrorist and violent attacks and killings by Islamist groups that neither he nor the Muslim Brotherhood could control. He said that if the president left his position, these groups would strike and kill, and nobody could control them,” Gen El Sisi said.

The remark infuriated him, the general said.

“I exploded and told him: ‘What do you want? You ruined the country. You either want to rule us or kill us,” Gen El Sisi recalled himself as saying at the meeting which also included Saad Al Katatni, leader of the Brotherhood’s political wing.

Much of the senior leadership of the Brotherhood, including Mr Al Shater, have been arrested in a crackdown. A court order has also banned the group.

And Egypt’s cabinet on Tuesday ordered authorities to remove the Brotherhood from the list of approved non-governmental organisations following a judicial order, state media reported. The move comes after an Egyptian court last month banned the group from operating and ordered its assets seized, amid a crackdown on the group following Mr Morsi’s removal from power.

Since his overthrow, Sinai-based Islamist militants have launched attacks almost daily on security forces in the area, which borders Israel and the Gaza Strip one side and the strategic Suez Canal on the other.

They are the most sustained since an Islamist insurgency that was crushed by then president Hosni Mubarak in the 1990s.

The protests continued on Tuesday with hundreds of Brotherhood supporters chanted “Down with the military government” outside Cairo University, defying Egypt’s army-backed authorities despite deadly clashes with security forces two days earlier.

Supporters of Mr Morsi had urged university students to protest against the army following the violence on Sunday.

The death toll from Sunday’s unrest rose to 57, state media said, with 391 people wounded.

The Brotherhood denies allegations by the military that it has any links to the violence.

There are fears an Islamist insurgency may take hold beyond the Sinai. On Monday suspected militants killed six Egyptian soldiers near the Suez Canal. Gunmen also killed a police officer and wounded another in the Suez Canal city of Port Said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Jordan’s King Abdullah II urged Egyptians to make choices about their future that will bring about unity, in remarks during talks on Tuesday with the troubled country’s interim president.

“Jordan supports choices the people of Egypt make about their future that would enhance their national unity, stability and security,” it quoted the king as telling Adly Mansour, who was in the kingdom as part a regional tour.

King Abdullah, who himself faces challenges at home from Islamists, was the first head of state to visit Egypt, 17 days after the military intervened.

The remarks came as the United States says it is “deeply concerned” by the recent violence in Egypt and is calling on the government there to protect all Egyptians.

A senior National Security Council spokeswoman said the government has a responsibility to create an atmosphere where all Egyptians “can exercise their universal rights, including free assembly, expression, and press”.

The US condemns all acts of violence and any “incitement to violence”, she added.

Reuters, with additional reporting by Agence France-Presse and Associated Press