Brotherhood Leader Arrested, Egypt’s Islamists Call Protests

CAIRO (Reuters) -

Egyptian security forces arrested the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood on Thursday, security sources said, in a crackdown against the Islamist movement after the army ousted the country’s first democratically elected president.

The dramatic exit of President Mohammed Morsi was greeted with delight by millions of jubilant people on the streets of Cairo and other cities overnight, but there was simmering resentment among Egyptians who opposed military intervention.

An Islamist coalition led by the Brotherhood called on people across the nation to protest in a “Friday of Rejection” following weekly prayers, an early test of Morsi’s ongoing support and how the military will deal with it.

Perhaps aware of the risk of society being polarized, the new interim leader, Judge Adli Mansour, used his inauguration to hold out an olive branch to the Brotherhood, Morsi’s power base.

“The Muslim Brotherhood are part of this people and are invited to participate in building the nation as nobody will be excluded, and if they respond to the invitation, they will be welcomed,” he said.

Just before he spoke, the air force staged a series of fly-pasts in the smoggy skies over Cairo, a stark reminder of the military’s role in the latest upheaval. The stunt, involving dozens of aircraft, was repeated at dusk.

But a senior Brotherhood official said it would not work with “the usurper authorities.” Another of its politicians said Morsi’s overthrow would push other groups, though not his own, to violent resistance.

Morsi’s removal after a year in office was another twist in the turmoil that has gripped the Arab world’s most populous country in the two years since the fall of Hosni Mubarak.

At least 16 people have been killed and hundreds wounded in clashes across Egypt since Morsi’s overthrow. In fighting late on Thursday between his supporters and opponents in his hometown of Zagazig northeast of Cairo, 80 more people were wounded.

According to state news agency MENA, protesters fought with rocks, birdshot ansd knives. Security forces fired teargas to disperse them and made 11 arrests.

The United Nations, the United States and some other world powers avoided condemning Morsi’s removal as a military coup. To do so might trigger sanctions.

Army intervention was backed by millions of Egyptians, including liberal leaders and religious figures who expect new elections under a revised set of rules.

Egypt’s armed forces have been at the heart of power since officers staged the 1952 overthrow of King Farouk.

A technocratic interim government will be formed, along with a panel for national reconciliation, and the constitution will be reviewed. Mansour said fresh parliamentary and presidential elections would be held, but he did not specify when.

Liberal chief negotiator Mohamed ElBaradei, a former U.N. nuclear agency chief and the favorite to become prime minister in the interim government, said the plan would “continue the revolution” of 2011.

Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr said he had assured U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a telephone call on Thursday that Morsi’s overthrow was not a military coup.

“This was actually the overwhelming will of the people,” Amr told Reuters. Amr tendered his resignation on Tuesday but remains in office in a caretaker capacity.

President Barack Obama, whose administration provides $1.3 billion a year to the Egyptian military, expressed concern about Morsi’s removal and called for a swift return to a democratically elected civilian government.

But he stopped short of condemning the military move in a way that might block U.S. aid.