Egyptians are bracing for a massive demonstration set for Friday, urged on by the military to show the country – and the world – that the interim government has a mandate to rule.
Interim Defense Minister and Egyptian Army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued the nationally broadcast appeal for Egyptians to turn out for the rally.
“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,” Sisi told military graduates in Alexandria in a speech carried live on state television. “The army and the police will secure the protests all over Egypt. We will never retreat when it comes to the proposed road map of the political transition,” he said.
Increasing attacks on security personnel in Sinai outposts by Islamist extremists have led to suspicions that the Muslim Brotherhood has reached out to its foreign allies for assistance with regaining power in Cairo.
The largely lawless Sinai Peninsula has become even more dangerous since Morsi’s overthrow, with daily attacks on Egyptian soldiers and police officers, and army personnel have responded by initiating a massive operation to “clear out” terrorists from the region.
The anti-Morsi Tamarud Movement, meanwhile, posted a notice to its supporters on Facebook to “support the Egyptian armed forces in the coming war against terrorism and cleansing the land of Egypt. The army and the people will fight terrorism,” the post read.
The planned demonstration is set for the same day that Islamist supporters of ousted Muslim Brotherhood-backed former President Mohamed Morsi have scheduled some 34 protest marches through Cairo as well.
Muslim Brotherhood supporters and the National Coalition for Supporting Legitimacy, comprised of 11 political parties which include the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party, have said they fear military leaders will take advantage of the two sets of demonstrations to create violence against Morsi supporters.
“The coalition is asking the international community and its institutions, including the U.N. and human rights organizations to reject the plot for bloodshed that will inflame the region and is being executed by the leader of the coup, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the coalition said in a statement.
A spokesman for interim President Adly Mansour told media Wednesday night, “Egypt started the war on terrorism and the call of General el-Sis is to protect the revolution and the state.”
Millions from Tamarud had turned out in force to back el-Sisi as he gave the former president a 48-hour ultimatum to either resign or be removed from office. Protesters submitted a petition signed by 22 million citizens demanding his resignation on the first anniversary of his election to office, the day that has since become known as the June 30 Revolution.
On July 3, Morsi was removed from the palace by the Egyptian Army, and has not been seen since – an issue that has deeply “concerned” Western nations and infuriated his family, Muslim Brotherhood members and other Islamists around the world.
The army, meanwhile, has not charged the former president with any crime, although “an investigation” has been discussed, and military spokespersons have said they are holding Morsi incommunicado “for his own safety.”