Egypt’s military leader has vowed that the army will not tolerate further political violence after nationwide clashes left hundreds dead, as security forces detained Muslim Brotherhood members in raids aimed at disrupting planned rallies.
Defence minister General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who led the July 3 coup that toppled president Mohammed Morsi, said the army has no intention of seizing power in the Arab world’s most populous country.
On Saturday, clashes between Morsi supporters and police killed 79 people, according to a government tally, raising the death toll for four days of unrest across the country to 888 people killed.
Mr El-Sissi removed Morsi after four days of mass rallies by millions of Egyptians who demanded the president step down.
In a speech aired on state television, he said: “We will not stand by silently watching the destruction of the country and the people or the torching the nation and terrorising the citizens.”
The general said that the military did not seek power but instead “have the honour to protect the people’s will – which is much dearer (than) ruling Egypt.”
Mr El-Sissi also said Islamists must be included in the country’s politics moving forward.
A military timetable calls for the nation’s constitution to be amended and for presidential and parliamentary elections to be held in 2014.
Speaking to a gathering of top military commanders and police chiefs, he said: “We have given many chances...to end the crisis peacefully and call for the followers of the former regime to participate in rebuilding the democratic track and integrate in the political process and the future map instead of confrontations and destroying the Egyptian state.”
In an attempt to cripple the Muslim Brotherhood’s protest plans, authorities carried out raids yesterday morning, detaining at least 300 mid-level officials and field operatives in several cities, according to security officials and group statements.
Foreign Secretary William Hague issued a fresh appeal to all sides to end violence and condemned the “disproportionate use of force” by the Egyptian security forces.
Mr Hague’s appeal for restraint came as around 400 protestors gathered at Whitehall yesterday in a demonstration that was said to be backed by British Egyptians For Democracy.
Mr Hague called for an end to the violence in a call with Egyptian foreign minister Nabil Fahmy, telling him Britain condemned all acts of violence, whether by the military or by demonstrators protesting at the overthrow of the former president Mohammed Morsi.
He said attacks on mosques and churches were “unacceptable” and called for places of worship to be protected.
Mr Hague urged the Egyptian government to return to the political road map published last month based on dialogue between parties who accepted peaceful political processes.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The Foreign Secretary also emphasised the EU’s collective determination to support a peaceful resolution of the situation.”
Mr Hague’s comments came after security forces stormed the al-Fath mosque in Cairo while Muslim Brotherhood supporters have been blamed for a series of attacks on Coptic Christian churches.
Four Irish citizens are reported to be trapped inside Al Fateh Mosque, which was surrounded by Egyptian security forces in Cairo’s Ramses area.
Their father is Hussein Halawa, imam of Ireland’s largest mosque.
Nasaybi Halawa, whose three sisters and brother were among hundreds of people forced to leave the Al Fateh mosque in Cairo by Egyptian security forces, said the family was extremely concerned.
Prime Minister David Cameron and French president Francois Hollande have called for an emergency meeting this week of European Union foreign ministers to discuss the crisis.