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The World

July 5, 2013

Egypt: Interim president is sworn in

CAIRO — Egypt’s military moved swiftly yesterday against senior figures of the Muslim Brotherhood, targeting the backbone of support for ousted president Mohammed Morsi. In the most dramatic step, authorities arrested the group’s revered leader from an oceanside villa and flew him by helicopter to detention in the capital.

As a top judge was sworn in as interim president to replace Morsi, the crackdown poses an immediate test to the new army-backed leadership’s promises to guide Egypt to democracy: the question of how to include the 83-year-old fundamentalist group.

That question has long been at the heart of democracy efforts in Egypt. Hosni Mubarak and previous authoritarian regimes banned the group, raising cries even from pro-reform Brotherhood critics that it must be allowed to participate if Egypt were to be free. After Mubarak’s fall, the newly legalized group vaulted to power in elections, with its veteran member Morsi becoming the country’s first freely elected president.

Now the group is reeling under a huge backlash from a public that says the Brotherhood and its Islamist allies abused their electoral mandate. The military forced Morsi out Wednesday after millions of Egyptians nationwide turned out in four days of protests demanding he be removed.

Furious over what it calls a military coup against democracy, the Brotherhood vowed yesterday it will not work with the new leadership. It and harder-line Islamist allies called for a wave of protests on Friday, dubbing it the “Friday of Rage,” vowing to escalate if the military does not back down.

There are widespread fears of Islamist violence in retaliation for Morsi’s ouster, and already some former militant extremists have vowed to fight. Several Brotherhood officials yesterday urged their followers to keep their protests peaceful. Thousands of Morsi supporters remained massed in front of a Cairo mosque where they have camped for days, with a line of military armored vehicles across the road nearby keeping watch.

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