Egypt ‘Brotherhood’ Condemns Sinai Attacks

Muslim BrotherhoodEgypt’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood has condemned attacks in the Sinai Peninsula that killed at least 33 security personnel on Friday, blaming President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for security failures.

The attacks are a setback for the government, which had managed over the past few months to make some progress in the struggle against an Islamist militant insurgency in the Sinai as it focuses on trying to repair the economy.

It would be recalled that army chief Sisi ousted elected President Mohamed Mursi of the Brotherhood in July 2013 after protests against his rule.

His government has since cracked down on Egypt’s oldest and most organised Islamist movement, throwing thousands of Mursi’s supporters in jail and labeling the group a terrorist organization. It draws no distinction between the Brotherhood and Islamist militants in the Sinai.

However, the Muslim Brotherhood says it is a peaceful movement and has consistently denied links to Islamist militant attacks against security forces, which have increased since the movement was removed from power.

In an e-mailed statement to Reuters, the Brotherhood called the attacks a “massacre” and offered condolences to the victims’ families.

“The Muslim Brotherhood believes the shedding of blood of any Egyptian is forbidden. The group holds the junta and its leaders responsible for the continued failure in the security, economic and social fields, as experienced by all the people, especially the people of the Sinai,” the statement said.

The Muslim Brotherhood was propelled to power in 2012, winning Egypt’s first free elections after the 2011 uprising that removed Hosni Mubarak from power after 30 years.

Sisi won a presidential election in May, after ousting Mursi from the presidency after one turbulent year in power.
He said on Saturday that the attacks were an “existential threat” and Egypt has declared a state of emergency in North Sinai as it seeks to stem attacks.

Hundreds of police and soldiers have been killed in the last year.

Egypt Government Resigns, Paving Way For Sisi To Seek Presidency

Egypt’s government resigned on Monday, paving the way for Army Chief Field Marshal, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to declare his candidacy for president of a strategic U.S. ally gripped by political strife.

After the July overthrow of elected Islamist President Mohamed Mursi and subsequent crackdown on Islamists and liberals with hundreds killed and thousands jailed, critics say Cairo’s military-backed authorities are turning the clock back to the era of autocrat Hosni Mubarak era, when the political elite ruled with an iron fist in alliance with top businessmen.

“(The outgoing government) made every effort to get Egypt out of the narrow tunnel in terms of security, economic pressures and political confusion,” Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi said in a live nationwide speech.

Beblawi, who was tasked by interim President Adly Mansour, with running the government’s affairs until the election, did not give a clear reason for the decision.

But it effectively opened the way for Sisi to run for president since he would first have to leave his post as Defense Minister in any case. “This (government resignation) was done as a step that was needed ahead of Sisi’s announcement that he will run for president,” an Egyptian official said.

He told Reuters that the cabinet had resigned en masse as Sisi did not want to appear to be acting alone.

Government spokesman, Hany Salah said only “this government feels that it did what it had to do in this critical period, and maybe it’s time for a change.”

Sisi has unveiled a political roadmap meant to lead to elections after toppling Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood following mass unrest against his increasingly arbitrary rule.

But promises of democracy have not borne fruit in the biggest Arab nation, where hundreds of thousands of people gathered in 2011 in an army-backed uprising that overthrew Mubarak and raised hopes of a new political landscape.

The presidential vote is expected within months in Egypt, which has great geo-strategic importance due to its peace treaty with Israel and control over the Suez Canal, a vital global shipping lane and the shortest between Asia and Europe.

20 Journalists To Be Tried In Cairo

Egypt’s courts have begun trying twenty journalists, including four foreigners, among them, Al-Jazeera’s Egyptian-Canadian Bureau Chief, Mohamed Adel Fahmy and Australian correspondent, Peter Geste.

They face charges, including aiding a terrorist organisation, as the Muslim brotherhood was designated in December, and endangering national security.

Al-jazeera has said that only nine of those charged are members of staff and they were merely reporting the situation in Egypt.

It has said the allegations are “absurd, baseless and false” and consistently denied aiding the Muslim brotherhood, on which the authorities launched a fierce crackdown after the military ousted President Mohammed Morsi in July.

The interim government and its supporters have accused international news networks of bias in their reporting of human rights abuses against Morsi supporters and secular dissenters.

Egypt: Brotherhood Supporters Protest Mursi’s Trial

Muslim Brotherhood supporters staged protests around Egypt on Friday, November 1, in support of deposed President Mohamed Mursi, ahead of his scheduled trial on Monday November 4.

Several hundred Islamists protested in a few cities, responding to a call from a pro-Mursi alliance for daily protests until Mursi goes before a court in Tora prison.

In Alexandria, 13 Islamists were arrested and 7 people were wounded after residents clashed with Mursi supporters before security forces intervened, a security official said.

Fighting also erupted in the Gisr al-Suez district of Cairo.

Mursi supporters in Cairo said his trial was illegitimate.

“This trial is void because the military coup is void and has no legitimacy. This should never ever happen, not even over our dead bodies. We will never accept a traitor (General Sisi) and his accomplices to rule Egypt,” said one of the protesters, Omran Abdel Hamid.

Another Mursi supporter, Eman Mohamed said the man who removed Mursi, Army Chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, should be the one standing trial.

“The president’s [Mursi] trial is a fake trial. He is the one that is supposed to take Sisi to trial not Sisi. He [Mursi] should try him [Sisi] for the massacres in Rabaa, the massacres in Nahda, and the Republican Guard massacre. Sisi is a liar and a traitor.”

The military-backed government has carried out a crackdown on Islamist supporters since Mursi was ousted on July 3.

The Brotherhood and its allies have urged crowds to gather on Monday outside a police institute near Cairo’s notorious Tora prison, where Mursi’s trial is expected to take place.

The charges relate to the deaths of about a dozen people in clashes outside the presidential palace in December after Mursi enraged his opponents with a decree expanding his powers.

Mursi has been held in a secret location since July. In that time Islamist militants have staged almost daily attacks against security forces in the Sinai Peninsula and some fear an Islamist insurgency could spread to other parts of Egypt.

One Killed In Attack On Pro-Mursi Protest In Cairo: State News Website

One man was killed and 15 people were injured in an attack against a protest by hundreds of supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi near Cairo University early Tuesday morning, a state-run news website said.

Al-Ahram Online said police fired tear gas to quell the violence and several cars in the area were destroyed or set on fire.

Police sources said hundreds of pro-Mursi supporters clashed with local residents, street vendors and others near Cairo University’s main campus in Giza province, south of Cairo. They said gunshots were fired and stones were thrown during the incident.

One person was killed and around 20 were injured on Monday in clashes between Mursi supporters and opponents in central Cairo. Around 100 have been killed since the army overthrew Mursi, elected last year, on July 3 after mass protests.

The Muslim Brotherhood said on the Facebook page of its Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), which Mursi headed before he was elected president in June 2012, that five were killed in Tuesday’s clashes.

“Leaders of the military coup continue to terrorize the peaceful protesters in Egypt,” the FJP said in a statement in English.

The Brotherhood accuses the army of orchestrating a coup that has exposed deep political divisions in the Arab world’s most populous and influential nation.

FJP said the ministers of defense and interior, whom it called “the leaders of the coup,” would be held responsible for any future attempts to evacuate the Brotherhood protest areas.

Mursi’s supporters are maintaining a round-the-clock vigil, now in its third week, in a Cairo suburb. They say they will continue until Mursi, held by the army in an unknown location since his ouster, is reinstated.

Some residents close to the Brotherhood’s main protest area in Nasr City have filed a complaint with the public prosecutor asking for the removal of the protesters, who they say are disturbing their lives.

An informed security source said the case is expected to be taken to a court and ruled upon soon “to give the army a legal basis to end the protests.”

Egypt Starts Amending Constitution Despite Political Divisions

A panel of legal experts started work on Sunday to revise Egypt’s Islamist-tinged constitution, a vital first step on the road to fresh elections ordered by the army following its removal of Mohamed Mursi as president.

Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which has accused the army of orchestrating a military coup and denounced plans to revise the constitution, staged fresh rallies on Sunday to maintain pressure on the new, interim government.

Setting a highly ambitious timeframe, the military wants new elections in around six months and has tasked a panel of 10 legal experts to present proposed changes to the constitution within 30 days for review before a broader-based body.

The original constitution was approved by a referendum last year, but critics said the text failed to protect human rights, minorities and social justice.

Ali Awad Saleh, a judge and the constitutional affairs adviser for the newly installed president, chaired Sunday’s panel, saying it would spend the next week receiving ideas from “citizens, political parties, and all sides”.

Khaled Dawoud, a spokesman for the National Salvation Front, Egypt’s main secular political alliance, called the start of the committee’s work “a very positive development”.

The Muslim Brotherhood has shown no sign it is ready to engage with the new administration or the army, sticking firmly to its demand for the full restoration of Mursi, who has been held in an undisclosed location since his downfall on July 3.

Army and judiciary sources denied a report in state-run Al-Ahram newspaper’s early Monday edition that the public prosecutor had ordered the arrest of Mursi for 15 days pending an investigation into charges of spying and inciting violence.

A few thousand women, children and men marched from the site of a round-the-clock, pro-Mursi vigil in a Cairo suburb on Sunday, moving to within sight of the defense ministry, ringed by barbed wire and protected by well-armed soldiers.

“Why, Sisi why, why did you kill our sisters?” the crowd chanted, referring to General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the defense minister who played a central role in forcing Mursi from office following mammoth street protests against the Islamist ruler.

More than 100 people have died in violent clashes this month, including three women taking part in a pro-Mursi rally in the Nile Delta town of Mansoura on Friday.

CONSTITUTIONAL DOUBTS

Trying to burnish their democratic credentials, the Egyptian military has said the new constitution should be put to a referendum before planned parliamentary elections.

However, some analysts have expressed doubts about rushing to revise the text given the lack of political consensus that has clouded Egypt’s faltering transition to democracy in the wake of the 2011 removal of veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

“The problem is not amending or drafting the constitution, the problem is deciding the direction the country is headed,” said Zaid Al-Ali of International IDEA, a Stockholm-based intergovernmental organization.

“Unless political agreement is reached between all of the major political actors in the country, we are going to head from one crisis to another,” he said.

Despite the continued domestic tensions, the new government is trying to show the world that business is returning to normal in Cairo. On Sunday, the cabinet held its first meeting since being sworn into office last week.

“The people need to be informed candidly about the size of Egypt’s problems, which require quick and decisive action,” said a statement issued at the end of the gathering.

Egypt’s finances are floundering: the budget deficit has widened to almost half of all state spending and foreign reserves totaled just $14.9 billion in June – representing less than three months of imports that the International Monetary Fund considers to be a minimum safe cushion.

Some of Egypt’s Arab allies welcome Mursi’s demise and have rushed to prop up the nation’s coffers, however.

Egypt’s central bank said on Sunday it had received $2 billion in funds from Saudi Arabia, the latest installment of a $12 billion aid package pledged by Gulf Arab states.

The Egyptian stock exchange rose to a seven-week high on Sunday, encouraged by a lack of violence at weekend “anti-coup” protests in Cairo, hoping it indicated tensions are calming.

However, violence continued in the lawless Sinai peninsula, where three members of Egypt’s security forces were killed on Sunday by armed men – the latest in a string of attacks blamed on Islamist militants opposed to the army.

Mursi was Egypt’s first freely elected leader, but during his one year in office he drew criticism for failing to revive the ailing economy, restore security or build institutions. The Muslim Brotherhood say they were repeatedly thwarted by remnants of Mubarak’s old government and forces hostile to them.

Assassination Of Oshiomhole’s Secretary May Have Influenced Edo’s Death Warrant

A former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) has expressed his disappointment with the Edo state Governor, Adams Oshiomhole for signing the death warrant of four convicted persons in the state.

He averred that the governor’s action may have been motivated by the assassination of one of his aides, Oyerinde Olaitan.

“I personally feel that the death of his personal assistant, Oyerinde Olaitan may have influenced his decision”.

In this edition of Law Weekly, Mr Agbakoba discusses the legality of the State of the Nation Address Bill, death penalty in Nigeria and an analysis of the crisis in Egypt.

EGYPT UPRISING: Public Opinion Can’t Be Unconstitutional In Democracy

A lecturer of International Law at the University of Lagos, Edefe Ojomo, while discussing African Union’s (AU) rationale for suspending Egypt following the removal of President Morsi, argued the that consent of many Egyptians to the military intervention should not be regarded as unconstitutional.

Speaking as a guest on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, she said that asides from military coups, a revolution as seen in Egypt could also be unconstitutional, by AU standards.

She however explained that if the “constitution gets its backing from the people, then obviously public opinion and public will can’t be unconstitutional.”

She attributed the success of 20 million signatories to the petition against the Morsi led administration to dissatisfaction by the people including those who had initially voted the ousted President into power.

She said the democracy, as interpreted by Egyptians, means the ‘people’s voice”

The uprising which led to the Egyptian Army ousting President Mohammed Morsi from power barely a year after being elected into power, was caused by people’s dissatisfaction.

Ojomo noted that the crisis, which involves international politics,  domestic politics and domestic economy would not spiral into a civil war.

“People don’t think it will spiral into a civil war because the Egyptian army is strong enough to maintain ‘some calm and some peace’.”

She disagreed with claims that external influences were involved in the uprising adding that “it is insulting to call a popular uprising a sort of manipulation” by outsiders.

She regarded it as a political manner of interpreting such problems.

At Least 15 Dead After Shooting In Cairo

At least 15 people were killed on Monday in Cairo, medical sources said, when the Muslim Brotherhood said shots were fired at supporters of deposed President Mohamed Mursi near the military building where he is being held.

The Egyptian military said “a terrorist group” had tried to storm the building. One army officer had been killed and 40 wounded, the military said.

Murad Ali of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party said 34 Mursi supporters had been killed. He said shooting broke out in the early morning while Islamists staged a sit-in outside the Republican Guard barracks.

Al Jazeera’s Egypt news channel broadcast footage of what appeared to be five men killed in the violence, and medics applying cardiopulmonary resuscitation to an unconscious man at a makeshift clinic at a nearby pro-Mursi sit-in.

Ambulances were shown driving to and from the clinic.

The military overthrew Mursi last Wednesday after mass nationwide demonstrations led by youth activists demanding his resignation. The Brotherhood denounced the intervention as a coup and vowed peaceful resistance against the “usurper authorities”.

The ultra-conservative Islamist Nour party, which backed the military action, said it had withdrawn from negotiations to form a new interim government in protest at what it called the “massacre of the Republican Guard”.

“We’ve announced our withdrawal from all tracks of negotiations as a first response,” Nader Bakar, spokesman for Egypt’s second biggest Islamist party, said on Facebook.

Military Intervention Saved Egypt From Collapse – Prof Oyebode

A Professor of International Law at the University of Lagos, Akin Oyebode on Friday averred that the intervention by the Egyptian military in the nation’s democracy saved the country from total shut down.

Prof Oyebode, a guest on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, said that the ousted President, Mohamed Mursi displayed political ‘naivety’ by ignoring the citizen’s demands for better governance.

He added that Mursi has been playing with power even though he ‘merely’ won the election.

Speaking about the over 20 million Egyptians who signed a petition against the Mursi led government, Prof Oyebode described the Egyptian Army’s moves as ‘calculated’.

He warned that all African countries should be weary because nothing invites the military more than bad governance.

Although ex-president Mursi was educated in America and had a doctorate degree from the University of Southern California where he was made assistant Professor, Prof Oyebode said “he ought to have demonstrated greater political savvy”.

He added that the exit of Mursi signals the collapse of religious politics in Egypt, ‘the epicenter of Arab civilization,’ which was the Muslim Brotherhood’s agenda.

Mursi “did not do enough to bring all the groups together” even though “he inherited a divided country,” he said.

Prof Oyebode was of the opinion that the situation in Egypt is an unfolding scenario and the international community needs to wait for the outcome of the ‘debacle’.

Egypt’s Mursi Rebuffs Army Ultimatum, Sets Own Course

President Mohamed Mursi rebuffed an army ultimatum to force a resolution to Egypt’s political crisis, saying on Tuesday that he had not been consulted and would pursue his own plans for national reconciliation.

The Islamist leader described as potentially confusing Monday’s 48-hour deadline set by the head of the armed forces for him to agree on a common platform with liberal rivals who have drawn millions into the streets demanding Mursi’s resignation.

Members of his Muslim Brotherhood have used the word “coup” to describe the military maneuver, which carries the threat of the generals imposing their own road map for the nation.

But in a statement issued at nearly 2 a.m., fully nine hours after General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi delighted Mursi’s opponents by effectively ordering the president to heed the demands of demonstrators, the president’s office used considerably less direct language to indicate he would try to take little notice.

“The president of the republic was not consulted about the statement issued by the armed forces,” it said. “The presidency sees that some of the statements in it carry meanings that could cause confusion in the complex national environment.”

Official video was released showing Mursi meeting the uniformed Sisi. Their body language seemed awkward, although it was unclear when it was shot.

The statement from Mursi’s office continued, “The presidency confirms that it is going forward on its previously plotted path to promote comprehensive national reconciliation … regardless of any statements that deepen divisions between citizens.”

Describing civilian rule as a great gain from the revolution of 2011, Egypt’s first freely elected leader, in office for just a year, said he would not let the clock be turned back.

But in referring to his plans for reconciliation as those he had spelt out before, he was speaking of offers that have already been rejected by the opposition, leaving it improbable that such compromises would bear fruit before Sisi’s deadline.

Mursi also spoke to U.S. President Barack Obama by phone on Monday, the presidency said in a separate statement. Mursi stressed that Egypt was moving forward with a peaceful democratic transition based on the law and constitution, it said.

Resignations

A sense of disintegration in the administration since the protests on Sunday has been heightened by the resignations tendered by several ministers who are not members of Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood. On Tuesday, the state news agency said the foreign minister, Mohamed Kamel Amr, had also asked to step down.

Attacks on Brotherhood offices have added to feelings among Islamists that they are under siege.

Some Brotherhood leaders, who swept a series of votes last year, said they would look to put their own supporters on the streets. After the destruction of the Brotherhood’s headquarters in a battle overnight on Monday in which eight people were killed, the possibility of wider violence seems real.

World powers are looking on anxiously, including the United States, which has long funded the Egyptian army as a key component in the security of Washington’s ally Israel.

General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke to his Egyptian counterpart, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Monday, although it was unclear what was said.

President Barack Obama has urged Mursi and his rivals to compromise. But Washington has also defended the legitimacy of Mursi’s election. It is unclear how far the Egyptian military has informed, or coordinated with, its U.S. sponsors.

DEADLINES

The coalition that backed Sunday’s protests said there was no question of it negotiating now with Mursi on the general’s timetable and it was already formulating its positions for discussion directly with the army once the 48 hours are up.

Sisi, in his broadcast statement, insisted that he had the interests of democracy at heart – a still very flawed democracy that Egyptians have been able to practice as a result of the army pushing aside Hosni Mubarak in the face of a popular uprising.

That enhanced the already high standing of the army among Egyptians, and the sight of military helicopters streaming national flags over Cairo’s Tahrir Square at sunset, after Sisi had laid down the law, sent huge crowds into a frenzy of cheers.

But on the other side of Egypt’s polarized politics, a Brotherhood spokesman said it might considering forming “self-defense” committees after a series of attacks on its premises.

Another leading figure in the movement, Mohamed El-Beltagy, said: “The coming period will witness an alignment between all the Islamist forces. Their sons will be called on to demonstrate in all streets and squares of the country.”

Among Mursi’s allies are groups with more militant pasts, including al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, a sometime associate of al Qaeda, whose men fought Mubarak’s security forces for years and who have warned they would not tolerate renewed military rule.

COMPROMISES

An alliance of Islamist groups, including the Brotherhood, issued a cautious joint statement that avoided criticizing the army but spoke of it being manipulated by rival parties.

Some Islamist groups, notably the Salafi Nour Party, which came second only to the Brotherhood in parliamentary elections last year, have spoken in favor of dialogue.

But scope for compromise between Mursi and his liberal critics appears narrow without the army imposing a deal.

Mursi has said he favors moving to elections for a new parliament that would give the opposition more say – if, as he points out, it has popular support. But the opposition, convinced the Brotherhood is out to entrench its rule forever, does not trust Mursi and wants to wipe clean a messy slate of institutional reforms since 2011 before holding a vote.

To that end, liberal coalition leaders, represented in negotiations by former U.N. diplomat Mohamed ElBaradei, are pushing for the senior judge on the constitutional court to replace Mursi as head of state for an interim period, while technocrats – and generals – would administer the country.

How far Sisi is prepare to push Mursi is not clear. Despite a hard line being taken by opposition leaders, some compromise in which Mursi was given time to lead the country, or perhaps to call a referendum on finishing his term, might be possible.

A military source said Sisi was keen not to repeat the experience of the year and a half between Mubarak’s fall and Mursi’s election, when a committee of generals formed a government that proved unpopular as the economy struggled.

The army’s preference would appear to be for a more hands-off approach, supervising government but not running it.

For many Egyptians, fixing the economy is key. Unrest since Mubarak fell has hobbled tourism and investment and the state finances are in poor shape, drained by extensive subsidy regimes and struggling to provide regular supplies of fuel.

Egypt Locked In Standoff After Millions Rally Against Mursi

Egypt was locked in a tense standoff on Monday after millions of protesters swarmed into the streets to demand the resignation of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi and militants set the ruling Muslim Brotherhood’s headquarters on fire.

Young revolutionaries united with liberal and leftist opposition parties in a massive show of defiance on the first anniversary of Mursi’s inauguration on Sunday, chanting “the people demand the fall of the regime”.

The demonstrations, which brought half a million people to Cairo’s central Tahrir Square and a similar crowd in the second city, Alexandria, were easily the largest since the Arab Spring uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

After dawn on Monday, young men were still preventing traffic entering Tahrir Square but only hundreds of people remained, some resting under makeshift awnings.

Mursi, the most populous Arab state’s first freely elected leader, stayed out of sight throughout the protests but acknowledged through a spokesman that he had made mistakes while adding that he was working to fix them and was open to dialogue.

He showed no sign of quitting.

An aide to Mursi said he was “encouraged” that events had unfolded mostly peacefully : “This is another day of democratic practice that we all cherish,” he said in a statement.

He accused the opposition of being vague in its demands and outlined three ways forward: first, parliamentary elections, which he called “the most obvious”; second, national dialogue, which he said opponents had repeatedly rejected; and third, early presidential elections, as demanded by protesters.

But that, he said, “simply destroys our democracy”.

The massive protests showed that the ruling Muslim Brotherhood has not only alienated liberals and secularists by seeking to entrench Islamic rule but has also angered millions of ordinary Egyptians with economic mismanagement.

Tourism and investment have dried up, inflation is rampant and fuel supplies are running short, with power cuts lengthening in the summer heat.

Dozens of militants attacked the Brotherhood’s national headquarters in Cairo with shotguns, petrol bombs and rocks, setting it on fire, and targeted offices of its political party across the country.

There was no sign of police or fire service protection for the Brotherhood’s head office, where witnesses said guards inside the building fired on the attackers. Two people died and 11 were injured in that clash, hospital sources said.

Protest organizers called on Egyptians to keep occupying central squares across the country in a campaign of peaceful civil disobedience until Mursi quits.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators stayed in Tahrir Square long after midnight, appearing to heed the call for a sit-in. But as the working day began, only hundreds remained.

Spotlight on army

If protesters maintain their camps, however, and return in the evenings, the spotlight will be on the army. It displayed its neutrality on Sunday, making goodwill gestures to the protesters after urging feuding politicians last week to cooperate to solve the nation’s problems.

Some uniformed policemen marched among protesters in Cairo and Alexandria, chanting “the police and the people are one”, and several senior officers addressed the Tahrir Square crowd.

That cast doubt on whether Mursi could rely on the security forces to clear the streets if he gave the order.

Diplomats said the army, which ruled uneasily during the transition from Mubarak’s fall to Mursi’s election, had signaled it was deeply reluctant to step in again, unless violence got out of hand and national security was at stake.

While the main demonstrations were peaceful and festive in atmosphere, seven people were shot dead in clashes in the central cities of Assiut, Beni Suef and Fayoum and outside the Brotherhood’s Cairo headquarters. The Health Ministry said 613 people were wounded in street fighting around the country.

Women’s activists said at least 43 women, including a foreign journalist, suffered organized sexual assaults by gangs of men during the Tahrir Square rally.

The opposition National Salvation Front coalition of liberal, secular and left-wing parties declared victory, saying the masses had “confirmed the downfall of the regime of Mohamed Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood”.

NEXT MOVE UNCLEAR

Opposition leaders, who have seen previous protest waves fizzle after a few days in December and January, were to meet on Monday afternoon to plot their next move.

Influential Qatar-based Muslim cleric Sheikh Youssef Qaradawi, visiting Cairo, appealed to fellow Egyptians to show more patience with Mursi, while saying the president had made errors.

“How long has Mohamed Mursi ruled? One year,” Qaradawi said in a television address. “Is one year enough to solve the problems of 60 years? That’s impossible … We must give the man a chance and help him. Everyone must cooperate.”

The United States and the European Union have urged Mursi to share power with the opposition, saying only a national consensus can help Egypt overcome a severe economic crisis and build democratic institutions.

Mursi and his Brotherhood supporters have so far rebuffed such pressure, arguing that he has democratic legitimacy and the opposition is merely seeking to achieve on the streets what it failed to secure at the ballot box.