Egyptian military warns against violent protests
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Egyptian military warns against violent protests

Massive rally of Morsi supporters and counter-demonstration scheduled for Friday

Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi check a man at a checkpoint where protesters have installed their camp at Nasr city in Cairo, Egypt, on Thursday, July 18, 2013. (photo credit: AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi check a man at a checkpoint where protesters have installed their camp at Nasr city in Cairo, Egypt, on Thursday, July 18, 2013. (photo credit: AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s military issued a stern warning Thursday against violent protests a day ahead of potentially massive demonstrations called for by supporters of the country’s ousted Islamist president.

The Muslim Brotherhood, from which ousted President Mohammed Morsi hails, is planning for a massive rally Friday that they’ve titled “Breaking the Coup.” The Brotherhood continues to demand Morsi’s reinstatement two weeks after he was toppled by the military following massive protests. Anti-Morsi protesters also have called for demonstrations Friday to celebrate Morsi’s ouster and the naming of a new Cabinet by the country’s interim leader.

Some protests since the coup protests have turned violent. About 60 people were killed in clashes with security and local residents that erupted out of the demonstrations.

In a statement posted on Facebook, military spokesman Col. Ahmed Mohammed Ali said that “whoever resorts to violence and deviates from peacefulness in Friday’s rallies will put his life in danger.”

Violators “will be dealt with decisively according to the law,” Ali said.

Brotherhood spokesman Ahmed Aref denied claims circulating Thursday that Morsi supporters planned to be violent in the coming protests, telling journalists that sit-ins held since before the coup showed their movement is peaceful. One speaker at the event, who didn’t identify himself, earlier claimed that Egyptian intelligence agents spread the rumors, but did not elaborate.

“We vehemently deny that we have pamphlets calling for road blocking or targeting military installations. All this is misleading,” Aref said.

Brotherhood officials in the past have accused security agencies of setting them up, including one incident in which they say violence in Sinai was staged to legitimize a crackdown against Islamists. The suspicion comes amid increasing tension between Islamists and the military following the coup.

That tension erupted in violence in the bloodiest single incident of Egypt’s 2 ½ years rocky transition. On July 8, 51 protesters and three security personnel were killed in clashes outside the Republic Guard Club where Morsi supporters believed the leader was held following his July 3 overthrow. Morsi is being held in undisclosed military facility.

The Brotherhood says the military and police opened fire without reason on peaceful protesters. The military says armed Islamists started the violence by attacking the club. Human Rights Watch has said that authorities moved in to break up a peaceful sit-in and some Morsi supporters used live ammunition.

Since the shooting deaths, a large rally organized by Morsi supporters in central Cairo sparked street clashes with the police, in which local residents also attacked Morsi supporters. Seven were killed and hundreds injured in the overnight fighting.

On the eve of Friday’s rally, Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie issued a statement calling on the military to reconsider its decisions and “return to righteousness … and accept the will of the people.”

The Friday rallies coincide with the tenth day of Ramadan, which Egyptians celebrate as the day the armed forces crossed the Suez Canal in the 1973 war with Israel.

Badie used the occasion to celebrate achievements of the armed forces and appeal to members of the military to remember that their real mission was to defend Egypt. He distinguished between leaders of the coup and the rest of the armed forces, saying Egypt is going through a “major crisis.”

“We call on the leaders of the coup to return to righteousness, (to) quit what is wrong,” he said. In the sit-in by Morsi supporters, organizers read Badie’s message. The protesters immediately broke out into the chant: “The people and army are one hand.”

Badie and a dozen other Brotherhood figures and supporters are wanted by prosecutors for their alleged role in inciting violence. In his statement, he urged protesters to remain peaceful.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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