The head of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Friday vowed that the group’s followers would hold open-ended protests to press for the reinstatement of ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, as violence mounted in the country.
“All the measures taken (by the army) are invalid,” Mohammed Badie said at a massive Cairo rally. “The millions supporting Morsi will stay in the squares until the president of Egypt is reinstated.”
Badie, who is the spiritual leader of the Brotherhood to which Morsi belongs, denied media reports he had been arrested.
His influential deputy, Khayrat al-Shater, was arrested Friday in Cairo on charges of inciting violence against opponents, the official Middle East News Agency reported.
The army ousted Morsi on Wednesday following unprecedented protests by millions of Egyptians who demanded his resignation and early presidential elections. Several leading Islamists have since been detained.
The former president’s backers staged huge protests across Egypt, demanding his reinstatement.
“The situation is very clear. The democratic process in Egypt has been assassinated by a coup d’etat against the first democratically elected president,” Omar Ibrahim, a school teacher attending the pro-Morsi rally in the Cairo area of Nasr City, told dpa.
“But I can assure you that the Egyptian people will defend their revolution.”
Violence on Friday in the wake of Morsi’s overthrow left 17 people dead and 315 injured in Cairo and other areas, state television reported, citing the Health Ministry. There were no details on how and where the casualties occurred.
The broadcaster reported clashes between Morsi’s opponents and backers in Alexandria, Egypt’s second most populous city, the Nile Delta provinces of Damietta and Beheira, and the coastal city of Suez.
One person was reported killed and 66 injured in fighting between the two sides near the Nile-side TV building in Cairo near Tahrir Square, where Morsi’s opponents continued to celebrate his removal.
The army positioned tanks and armoured vehicles outside the building apparently to prevent potential attacks.
There were clashes in al-Arish, a city in the Sinai Peninsula near Israel. A police car was torched in the violence.
State television said the army had foiled an attempt by Morsi’s supporters to storm the city hall of the Suez Canal city of Ismailia. No casualties were reported.
Egypt’s top Muslim cleric, Ahmed al-Tayyeb, appealed for calm.
“I call on all Egyptians to avoid bloodshed. I entreat to God to put an end to this ugly sedition,” al-Tayyeb, head of the prestigious Sunni al-Azhar institution, said in a televised statement.
Earlier Friday, gunmen attacked army and police checkpoints in Sinai, killing one soldier and injuring three others, a security official said.
The attacks prompted Egyptian authorities to indefinitely close the Rafah border crossing with the Palestinian Gaza Strip. Troops deployed in Suez and South Sinai provinces were put on maximum alert following the assaults.
Interim President Adli Mansour, sworn in Thursday, has dissolved the Islamist-dominated Shura Council, which served as a temporary legislature.
Mansour appointed Refaat Shehata, outgoing intelligence service chief, as presidential advisor on security and named Mohamed Farid as new intelligence chief.
The African Union Peace and Security Council suspended Egypt on Friday from the 54-nation bloc, citing an unconstitutional power grab in the North African nation.
Cairo said it “deeply regretted” the bloc’s decision.
“We deeply regret this decision, which has been taken on the basis of unrealistic information,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdel-Atti said.
Morsi became Egypt’s first democratically elected president last year after winning the polls with a narrow margin.
The opposition accused him of being keen on tightening the Muslim Brotherhood’s hold on power and becoming a dictator. – dpa