CAIRO — Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood vowed today to continue its “peaceful” resistance in defiance of the military’s ouster of the country’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.
A Brotherhood statement also distanced the group from an assassination attempt Wednesday against a senior army commander in the Sinai Peninsula.
The statement came a day after Egypt’s military-backed government tightened its crackdown on the Brotherhood, ordering the arrest of its spiritual leader in a bid to choke off the group’s campaign to reinstate Morsi, now held at an undisclosed Defense Ministry facility.
“We will continue our peaceful resistance to the bloody military coup against constitutional legitimacy,” the Brotherhood said. “We trust that the peaceful and popular will of the people shall triumph over force and oppression.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. is moving ahead with plans to deliver four F-16 fighter jets to Egypt despite the ongoing debate about the military overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi and whether it legally constitutes a coup that could shut off aid to the country.
Defense officials say senior administration leaders discussed the delivery and decided to let it continue. The fighters are part of a $1.3 billion package approved in 2010 that included 20 F-16s and some M1A1 Abrams tank kits. About half of the aid package has been dispersed, officials said. Eight of the F-16s were delivered in January, the next four are expected to be delivered in the coming weeks and the final eight are to be sent later this year.
Morsi was Egypt’s first freely elected president. He was ousted by the military on July 3, following a wave of protests by millions of Egyptians who took to the streets to call for his removal.
The Brotherhood’s statement also denounced the assassination attempt against Maj. Gen. Ahmed Wasfi in the Sinai town of Rafah, near the border with Gaza, saying the group adheres to peaceful measures in line with what it says are the teachings of Islam.
The Brotherhood denounced the warrants for the arrest of Mohammed Badie and nine other leading Islamists for inciting violence that left dozens dead in Cairo on Monday, saying “dictatorship is back” and insisting it will never work with the interim rulers.
Leaders of the Brotherhood are believed to be taking refuge somewhere near a continuing sit-in by the group’s supporters at the Rabaah al-Adawiya Mosque in eastern Cairo, but it is not clear if Badie also is there.
Security agencies have already jailed five leaders of the Brotherhood, including Badie’s powerful deputy, Khairat el-Shaiter, and shut down its media outlets.
The prosecutor general’s office said Badie; another deputy, Mahmoud Ezzat; senior member Mohammed El-Beltagy; and popular preacher Safwat Hegazy are suspected of instigating Monday’s clashes with security forces outside a Republican Guard building that killed 54 people — most of them Morsi supporters — in the worst bloodshed since he was ousted.
The Islamists have accused the troops of gunning down protesters, while the military blamed armed backers of Morsi for attempting to storm a military building.
The arrest warrants highlight the armed forces’ zero-tolerance policy toward the Brotherhood, which was banned under authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak.
“This just signals that dictatorship is back,” said Brotherhood spokesman Ahmed Aref. “We are returning to what is worse than Mubarak’s regime, which wouldn’t dare to issue an arrest warrant of the general leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
The Brotherhood’s refusal to work with the new interim leaders underscored the difficulties they face in trying to stabilize Egypt and bridge the deep fissures that have opened in the country during Morsi’s year in office.
Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.