There was confusion last night after Mohamed ElBaradei was authoritatively reported to have been appointed as Egypt’s interim prime minister by the acting president, Adly Mansour. He was expected take the country along a military-imposed political roadmap amid vicious strife, including growing sectarian attacks and a rising death toll.
However, this was contradicted late last night by Egyptian state television, which denied any such appointment had been made.
The former head of the International Atomic Energy Commission met the armed forces chief, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, yesterday and, according to officials, agreed to act as executive head of a new “salvation government” until fresh elections can be held.
But shortly afterwards the Muslim Brotherhood declared that the appointment of Mr ElBaradei, who had led a coalition of left-wing groups, was “illegitimate”. “We reject this coup and all that results from it, including ElBaradei,” a senior representative of the Brotherhood was reported to have told an Islamist gathering in Cairo.
Mr ElBaradei was among liberal leaders who opposed the Islamist President Morsi, ousted by the military on Wednesday. Thousands of Brotherhood supporters in Cairo yesterday were preparing to march to a military base where the deposed president is thought to be held.
A similar attempt to free Mr Morsi on Friday from the HQ of the Presidential Guards resulted in four protesters being shot dead by security forces amid running battles.
The violence across the country has left 35 people dead and about a thousand wounded. Yesterday a Coptic Christian priest, Mina Aboud Sharween, was shot dead in El-Arish town in north Sinai.
The Muslim Brotherhood has fiercely criticised the Coptic Pope Tawadros, the spiritual leader of the country’s eight million Christians, for giving his blessing to the removal of Mr Morsi by the army, and for turning up to support the announcement of the constitution being suspended by General al-Sisi.
The Muslim Brotherhood has refused to take part in the process, denouncing the army intervention as a coup and pledging that they will stay on the streets until Mr Morsi is reinstated. One Brotherhood leader, Mohammed Badie, told a rally the new government was illegitimate. “Millions will remain in the squares until we carry our elected president ... on our shoulders,” he said.
Mr Badie appealed to soldiers to defy their senior officers and free Mr Morsi. The army yesterday issued a statement on its Facebook page denying reports some commanders had asked for Morsi’s reinstatment.
“These rumours come within the context of the continued attempts to spread rumours and lies as one of the methods of the systematic information warfare being waged against the armed forces with the aim of dividing its ranks and striking at its strong cohesion,” it read.
Meanwhile the US and United Nations expressed concern. The State Department urged Egypt’s leaders to stop the violence. The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, called for demonstrators to be protected. The security forces were present in much greater numbers yesterday, after Friday evening’s violence. A crowd of close to 5,000 Morsi supporters crossed the Nile over the 6 October Bridge, near the hub of opposition dissent, Tahrir Square. They had surrounded Maspero, the state television centre, when they were confronted by anti-Morsi demonstrators and fighting broke out.
The violence was replicated elsewhere with some of the fiercest clashes taking place in the second city, Alexandria, where 14 people were killed after, it was claimed, Brotherhood supporters attacked with guns and knives. One opponent, who had been taunting them, was thrown from a roof.
Six members of the security forces were killed in attacks by jihadist fighters in the Sinai, leading to the closure of the border with Gaza. Yesterday a new Islamist group calling itself Ansar al-Shariah (Supporters of Islamic Law) said it would gather arms and start training members for jihad against the state. Brotherhood supporters in Cairo last night claimed they were confident they would return their leader to power.