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Cairo • Egypt's military moved swiftly Thursday 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 a seaside villa and flew him by helicopter to detention in the capital.
With a top judge newly 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 was 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.
Adly Mansour, the head of the Supreme Constititonal Court, with which Morsi had repeated confrontations, was sworn in as interim president.
In his inaugural speech, broadcast nationwide, he said the anti-Morsi protests that began June 30 had "corrected the path of the glorious revolution of Jan. 25," referring to the 2011 uprising that toppled Mubarak.
To cheers from his audience, he also praised the army, police, media and judiciary for standing against the Brotherhood. Islamists saw those institutions as full of Mubarak loyalists trying to thwart their rule.
Furious over what it calls a military coup against democracy, the Brotherhood said it would not work with the new leadership. It and harder-line Islamist allies called for a wave of protests 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.
Suspected militants opened fire at four sites in northern Sinai, targeting two military checkpoints, a police station and el-Arish airport, where military aircraft are stationed, security officials said. The military and security responded to the attacks but there was no word on casualities in the ongoing clashes.
Officials of the Brotherhood firmly 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 keeping watch.
"We declare our complete rejection of the military coup staged against the elected president and the will of the nation," the Brotherhood said in a statement, read by senior cleric Abdel-Rahman el-Barr to the crowd outside the Rabia al-Adawiya Mosque in Cairo.
The reactions of some countries to the military overthrow of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi offer a revealing glimpse at their own domestic politics. Here is a look at which side key countries are supporting.
The Obama administration is treading carefully, wary of taking sides. President Barack Obama said the U.S. acknowledged the "legitimate grievances of the Egyptian people" while also observing that Morsi, an Islamist, won his office in a legitimate election.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamic-rooted government, which had formed an alliance with Morsi, is speaking out in favor of the ousted leader. Turkey's foreign minister slammed the overthrow as "unacceptable" and called for Morsi's release from house arrest. Turkey itself was hit last month by a wave of protests against Erdogan's perceived authoritarianism and attempts to impose his conservative views on secular society.
Syria's embattled President Bashar Assad is celebrating the overthrow as the end of "political Islam." He is facing an insurgency at home and has refused to step down, calling the revolt an international conspiracy carried out by Islamic extremists and fundamentalist groups such as the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, a branch of the Egyptian group with the same name to which Morsi belongs.
Iran is disappointed at the fall of Morsi, with a prominent lawmaker saying the leader failed to reshape Egypt's powerful military and other security agencies. After Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, the new leadership formed military and security forces loyal to the clerics and others. Morsi's government had ended more than three decades of diplomatic estrangement with Iran dating back to the revolution, when Egypt offered refuge to Iran's deposed shah.
The ruling Islamists in Tunisia, the cradle of the Arab Spring, are condemning the overthrow as a "flagrant coup." Ennahda party leader Rachid Ghannouchi expressed astonishment, saying the overthrow undermined democracy and would feed radicalism.
United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates, one of the Arab world's most outspoken critics of the Muslim Brotherhood, is noting its "satisfaction" at the turn of events in Egypt, according to the official news agency WAM. The UAE claims Islamist groups backed by the Muslim Brotherhood have sought to topple its Western-backed ruling system.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki expressed support for the Egyptian people's choices and congratulated Egypt's interim president, a spokesman said. The spokesman, Ali al-Moussawi, added that Iraq is "looking forward to boosting bilateral relations" and is "certain that the new president will move on with the new plan in holding elections and safeguarding national reconciliation."