Egypt’s El-Sisi: Brotherhood Will Not Return

CAIRO (AP) -

Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the former military chief who removed Egypt’s Islamist president and who is now considered certain to become the next president in elections this month, said the Muslim Brotherhood will never return as an organization, accusing it of using militant groups to destabilize the country.

El-Sisi spoke in the first media interview of his campaign, aired Monday, vowing that restoring stability and bringing development were his priorities. The comments were a seemingly unequivocal rejection of any political reconciliation with the Brotherhood, which was Egypt’s most powerful political force until el-Sisi removed President Mohammed Morsi last summer.

Since ousting Morsi, el-Sissi has been riding an overwhelming media frenzy lauding him as Egypt’s savior, and his status as the country’s strongest figure all but guarantees him a victory in the May 26-27 election. El-Sisi’s only opponent in the race is leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, the third-place finisher in the 2012 election won by Morsi.

El-Sisi, who retired from the military in March with the rank of field marshal to launch his candidacy, heads toward office at a time of deepened polarization. Morsi’s supporters have continued protests against the new government, often met by fierce and lethal clashes with security forces. Hundreds have been killed and more than 16,000 members of the Brotherhood and other Islamists have been arrested. Clashes have waned, but the government has branded the Brotherhood a terrorist organization.

At the same time, Islamic militant groups have claimed responsibility for a string of bombings and shootings against police and the military in retaliation for Morsi’s removal.

In the interview, el-Sisi said there have already been two assassination plots against him uncovered, without giving details.