July 13, 2013

Egypt's Islamists digging in for long-term protests

The Associated Press

CAIRO - Tens of thousands of Islamists rallied Friday in cities across Egypt, vowing to sustain for months their campaign to restore deposed President Mohammed Morsi to power.

click image to enlarge

A supporter of Egypt’s ousted President Mohammed Morsi, left, kisses a mask depicting Morsi worn by a fellow demonstrator Friday in Cairo. At the same time, supporters of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood rallied in cities across Egypt.

The Associated Press

Ten days after the military coup that toppled him, however, Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and its allies appear to have failed to bring a significantly wider segment of Egyptian society into the streets on their side.

The new military-backed administration of interim President Mansour Adly, along with the grand imam of Al-Azhar, the most prominent Sunni Muslim institution, floated offers for "national reconciliation." Newly appointed Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi is reportedly promising to finish assembling his Cabinet by next week, a government official told Egypt's state news agency. A presidential spokesman has said members of the Muslim Brotherhood will be offered posts.

The Brotherhood remains steadfast in its opposition, saying its supporters will stay in the streets for as long as it takes to force the reinstatement of Morsi, who was overthrown July 3 after four days of massive protests demanding his ouster.

At the main Islamist rally in Cairo, the crowd poured into a large boulevard in front of the Rabaa al-Adawiya Mosque, where Morsi supporters have been camped for two weeks.

Egyptian flags, which were fewer in their previous rallies, outnumbered the usual green Islamic banners emblazoned with the Muslim profession of faith -- a move to show their movement's broader appeal. Chants and slogans focused on the military, many branding the army chief a "traitor."

"We are ready to stay for a month, two months, a year, or even two years," ultraconservative Salafi cleric Safwat Hegazi told protesters from a stage.

The demonstrators there seem to have dug in for a long sit-in. Tents have been erected and toilets have been set up. Protesters with helmets, homemade body shields and sticks guarded the site, which has drawn Morsi supporters from other provinces.

Army troops are staying about a half-mile away to avoid direct confrontations.

On Monday, there were clashes with security forces near the Republican Guard headquarters not far from the site, with more than 50 people killed. Both sides blamed the other for the bloodshed.

 

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