Egypt army chief vows to stand firm in face of violence
The head of Egypt\’s military says the army will not stand by silently in the face of violence after hundreds of people were killed during the country\’s recent political unrest.
Gen Abdul Fattah al-Sisi urged them to help "rebuild the democratic path" and "integrate in the political process".
He spoke as supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi marched toward Egypt\’s Supreme Constitutional Court in Cairo. An Islamist alliance opposed to the military\’s ouster of Morsi canceled two other protest marches scheduled for Sunday, claiming snipers had been deployed along the planned routes.
Army Chief General Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi said the army has no intention to seize power and called on Islamists to join the political process. In his first public comments since last week\’s crackdown against protest camps, he told military and police officers his message to pro-Morsi supporters is that "there is room for everyone in Egypt."
Later, at least 36 people were killed when members of the Muslim Brotherhood tried to escape during their transfer to a prison on the outskirts of Cairo.
The Mena state news agency reported that gunmen exchanged fire with guards of prison vehicles transporting more than 600 detainees to Abu Zaabal prison in Qalyubia province, north of the capital.
The interior ministry said a number of people died from the effects of inhaling tear gas, which was fired when the escaping inmates took a police officer hostage. He was freed, but was badly injured, it added.
However, a legal source told the Reuters news agency the Brotherhood members had suffocated in the back of a crammed police van.
The interior ministry separately said so-called "people\’s committees", which have been set up by residents of some areas to provide security, would be banned because some had been used for vigilante activities.
Meanwhile, Mena reported that 79 people were killed and 549 wounded in violence across the country on Saturday.
That raised the nationwide death toll since Wednesday, when security forces forcibly cleared two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo, to more than 830, including 70 police and soldiers.
Earlier, Egyptian security forces raided the homes of Muslim Brotherhood members, detaining mid-level officials and field operatives in several cities in an apparent attempt to cripple the group\’s protest plans.
The Brotherhood, and the broader Anti-Coup Alliance, had said they would hold mass rallies in cities across Egypt. But an alliance spokeswoman said two of the marches – including one in Cairo\’s Heliopolis neighborhood – were cancelled "for security reasons."
Also Sunday, interim foreign minister Nabil Fahmy dismissed international criticism over the government\’s violent crackdown on opponents, insisting authorities had not abandoned the path to democracy. Fahmy chided Western allies he said have been silent about the "criminal acts" of the protesters and he said he would review all foreign aid to the country.
A heavy security presence was visible outside Cairo\’s al-Fath mosque early on Sunday, a day after it was stormed by security forces, but the streets were calm. One man complained that Egypt has become increasingly polarized.
The Brotherhood has called for daily demonstrations since security forces cleared its protest camps in Cairo on Wednesday and declared a state of emergency.
More than 600 people were killed during the operations, including dozens of security forces personnel, and at least another 173 died on Friday during a "day of rage" called by the Brotherhood .
Earlier, the European Union said it would be reviewing its relationship with Egypt\’s interim authorities at an emergency meeting next week.
The presidents of the European Commission and European Council said in a joint statement calls for democracy and fundamental rights "cannot be disregarded, much less washed away in blood".
It added that the violence and killings "cannot be justified nor condoned".
The EU has pledged several billion dollars in loans and grants to Egypt.