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Egyptian Military Threatens Protesters in Advance of Major Protest

General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi delivers strongly-worded statement ahead of major anti-government protests next week.

The Egyptian military chief has warned that the army will not stand by and allow Egypt to fall into “a dark tunnel of conflict,” ahead of major anti-government protests planned for next week.

Sisi (right) was appointed as defence minister last year by president Mohamed Morsi [Reuters]

General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Sunday that the army has recently tried to avoid politics, but has a “moral responsibility” to prevent strife and protect “the will of the people.”

“There is a state of division in society, and the continuation of it is a danger to the Egyptian state. There must be consensus,” he said.

The military took power in February 2011, after the revolution that toppled longtime president Hosni Mubarak, and civilian rule was only reinstated last June, when Mohamed Morsi became Egypt’s first democratically-elected president.

That 16-month transitional period led to widespread public criticism of the military, which Sisi alluded to in his remarks on Sunday. Many analysts believe the memory of that period has left the army reluctant to intervene again.

It was unclear what, exactly, Sisi was describing as “the will of the people.”

Opposition groups are planning a major protest on June 30 to mark the one-year anniversary of Morsi’s inauguration. There are widespread fears that the demonstrations could turn violent: At a pro-government rally on Friday, several speakers threatened to “crush” the opposition.

Sisi urged parties and political factions to use the week leading up to the protests to reach consensus.

Morsi appointed Sisi as defence minister last year in a shakeup that replaced the army’s top officers, including General Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Mubarak’s longtime defence chief and the country’s ruler during the transitional period.

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