Egypt’s army chief has called for rallies to back a crackdown on “terrorism and violence”, in comments Islamists denounced as a call to “civil war” ahead of their own protests.
With tensions already running high following the army’s ouster of president Mohamed Morsi on July 3, the call by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for demonstrations raises the prospect of further violence on the streets between the pro- and anti-Morsi camps.
“Next Friday, all honourable Egyptians must take to the street to give me a mandate and command to end terrorism and violence,” said Sisi, wearing dark sunglasses as he took to the podium to address a graduation ceremony of military cadets near Alexandria.
A coalition of Islamists led by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood said they would press ahead with their own rallies on Friday, warning of “massacres” after Sisi’s speech.
“Sisi’s threats are an announcement of civil war,” the group said.
It warned of the danger of “massacres committed under a false popular cover”.
Nearly 170 people have died in political unrest in Egypt since the end of June, according to an AFP tally.
Huge crowds of Egyptians protested against Morsi on June 30, after just a single turbulent year of his presidency.
Sisi claimed he had been told by Morsi aides that removing the president would result in violence.
Presidential aides “told me if there is any problem there will be lots of violence because of armed groups, to scare me,” Sisi said in his speech.
After he spoke, security sources said gunmen killed a soldier in a noon attack in the Sinai peninsula, where militants have carried out daily attacks on security forces since Morsi’s overthrow.
Clashes between supporters and opponents of Morsi, have killed at least 13 people across Egypt since Monday.