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Egypt orders arrests of Muslim Brotherhood leaders

CAIRO — Egyptian authorities on Thursday ordered the arrests of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, even as the country's newly installed interim president pledged to include the Islamist movement and other supporters of deposed leader Mohammed Morsi in forming a unity government.

Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood's "supreme guide," and Khairat el-Shater, his deputy, were charged in arrest warrants with incitement to kill protesters outside the Brotherhood's headquarters in Cairo, according to Egypt's state media.

At least a dozen other Muslim Brotherhood officials — including Saad el-Katatni, a former speaker of Parliament and leader of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, and Rashad Bayoumi, an aide to Badie — were taken into custody overnight, after Morsi was placed under house arrest.

El-Katatni and Bayoumi were charged with inciting violence and strife among Egyptians, the official Middle East News Agency reported.

President Barack Obama on Wednesday night had warned Egypt's powerful military "to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsi and his supporters."

The warrants were issued less than a day after the army-orchestrated ouster of Morsi, the democratically elected Islamist leader whose 368 days in power spawned huge protests by Egyptians frustrated by his autocratic style and consolidation of power within his religious base.

Prosecutors accused Badie and Shater of ordering 250 of their members to defend the group's headquarters with lethal force — specifically to shoot birdshot and bullets at anyone who attempted to storm their building.

An Islamist coalition led by the Muslim Brotherhood called for nationwide demonstrations Friday to protest the ouster of Morsi. The group, calling itself the National Coalition in Support of Legitimacy, dubbed the planned day of protests the "Friday of Rejection" and stressed that it should be peaceful.

Scores of anti-Morsi protesters attacked the headquarters and set it on fire Sunday during a weekend of massive anti-government demonstrations. Eight people died in the ensuing clashes. A day later, Egypt's military gave Morsi 48 hours to forge a deal with protesters and said it would intervene if the situation were not resolved.

Morsi was forced from power Wednesday evening. Gen. Abdel-Fatah al-Sissi, chief of the Egyptian armed forces, told the nation in a televised address that the military was responding to the people's demands in an act of "public service."

Judge Adly Mansour, who became head of Egypt's high court earlier this week, was tapped to govern until new elections can be held. The 67-year-old jurist told reporters he would seek to include all elements of Egyptian society — including the Muslim Brotherhood — in an interim coalition government.

"The Brotherhood are part of the people, and they are invited to take part in building the country," Mansour said, according to state-run media. "There will be no exclusion for anyone."

Mansour also pledged to uphold Egypt's constitution.

"We are hopeful of hanging on to the main principles of this revolution and its new values," Mansour said, referring to the popular uprising in 2011 that ended with the army taking charge and deposing longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak. "Most importantly, to end the worship of the ruler, who comes to resemble a demi-god, and to stop producing tyrants."

Morsi was under house arrest at a Presidential Guard clubhouse, said Gehad el-Haddad, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood. It was not clear what charges he was facing.

Support for the change in leadership began to arrive from around the region. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki cabled Mansour to congratulate him. So did Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The head of the Arab League, Nabil Elaraby, urged the international community to support Egypt. A spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry said Iran "respects the political desires of the wise, civilized and historic Egyptian people." Also recognizing the new transitional government were Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Egypt orders arrests of Muslim Brotherhood leaders 07/04/13 [Last modified: Friday, July 5, 2013 11:29am]
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