CAIRO – The Muslim Brotherhood’s leader urged Egyptians to rally for “freedom” Friday, setting the Islamists on a collision course with an army that’s signaled it’s losing patience with protests in support of ousted President Mohammed Morsi.

The appeal by Mohammed Badie, the Brotherhood’s supreme guide, came a day after military chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sissi urged Egyptians to take to the streets Friday to give the military and police a broad mandate to combat “violence” and “terrorism.”

The military issued a further statement on its Facebook page Thursday, giving a 48-hour ultimatum and warning that its tactics in dealing with violence and terrorism would change after Friday.

The appeal by al-Sissi, who announced Morsi’s overthrow on July 3, signaled a potential crackdown against Islamists who have occupied part of Cairo’s Nasr City district as a staging ground for pro-Morsi demonstrations. The protests have sometimes escalated into clashes with the Islamists’ opponents that have left about 100 dead, mostly supporters of Morsi.

Al-Sissi’s speech made it clear that “he’s the real ruler of the country, and that everyone around him are extras,” Badie said in a weekly emailed statement. He urged Egyptians to rally in defense of “freedom and legitimacy” and to announce “your rejection of the military coup.”

“The people always triumph and teach criminals one lesson after another,” Badie said. He said the “coup” carried out by al-Sissi was more criminal than demolishing the Kaaba, the most holy pilgrimage site for Muslims in Mecca.

The army-installed interim government has said it will make it a priority to revive an economy that’s growing at the slowest pace in decades amid the tensions that followed the fall of Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

The military urged Egyptians in a statement broadcast on state television Thursday to rally Friday “to recall the historical revolutionary stance of the Egyptian people which has always impressed the world.”

The state broadcaster announced it started Wednesday a three-day special program “to cover and encourage the people in its support for its revolution.”

The interior ministry has prepared “unprecedented security plans” to protect Friday’s rallies, it said in an emailed statement. Armored police vehicles were parked outside Tahrir square Thursday, the focal point of the protests against Mubarak two years ago.

Army-appointed Interim President Adly Mansour and Prime Minister Hazem El Beblawi supported the military’s call.

Since Morsi was deposed and detained after days of mass protests by his opponents, the authorities have launched a broad-scale crackdown on the Brotherhood and sympathetic Islamists.

Al-Sissi said Wednesday he had opposed the idea of an Islamist standing in last year’s presidential election, and had warned Morsi that the nation was becoming polarized under his leadership. He said he always showed Morsi his statements before he published them and insisted that he hadn’t deceived him.


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