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Egypt Army said to defy Morsi on use of live fire against civilians

Special to WorldTribune.com

CAIRO — The Egyptian Army has disobeyed orders by President Mohammed
Morsi to employ live fire against civilian rioters.

Western diplomatic sources said senior Army commanders have ordered
their troops not to open fire on civilians amid the nationwide unrest in
Egypt. They said this violated a directive by Morsi that infantry units join
the Central Security Forces in using live fire to stop attacks and looting
by mobs in several Egyptian cities.

A protester opposing Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi throws a tear gas canister back at riot police during clashes along Qasr Al Nil bridge, which leads to Tahrir Square, in Cairo, Tuesday. Mr. Morsi has been unable to reestablish order since the violence began last Friday, the second anniversary of the Egyptian revolution. /Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

A protester opposing Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi throws a tear gas canister back at riot police during clashes along Qasr Al Nil bridge, which leads to Tahrir Square, in Cairo on Jan. 29.  /Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

“There are only a few cases where Army units have opened fire on
civilians,” a diplomat said. “Most of the fire has come from the Central
Security Forces.”

The diplomats said the Army policy of restraint was supported by
Egyptian Defense Minister Abdul Fatah Sisi. They said Sisi was warned
several times over the last week by senior U.S. officials that Army fire on civilians could jeopardize the $1.3 billion in annual American defense aid to Cairo.

On Feb. 3, Egypt received the first four of 20 F-16 Block 52 multi-role
fighters. U.S. officials attending the ceremony said the arrival of the
advanced warplanes marked Washington’s determination to bolster military cooperation with Egypt.

“We look to Egypt to continue to serve as a force for peace, security
and leadership as the Middle East proceeds with its challenging yet
essential journey toward democracy,” U.S. ambassador to Egypt, Anne
Patterson, said.

The Army refusal to obey Morsi’s orders was believed to have also harmed
the president’s authority with the nation’s governors. On Jan. 30, the
governors of three provinces in which Morsi declared martial law eased the
nightly curfew.

The diplomatic sources said the governors acted unilaterally after the
curfew was defied by tens of thousands of anti-government demonstrators.
They said Sisi supported the decision to abandon the president’s order for a
30-day curfew in Ismailiya, Port Said and Suez.

“Sisi sees Morsi as falling into the same trap that [former President
Hosni] Mubarak fell into,” a source said, “a president who becomes quickly
enchanted with his own sense of power.”

So far, the Central Security Forces has been the lead unit in the bloody
clashes with protesters. On Feb. 2, the Interior Ministry, after a broadcast
by Egyptian state television, acknowledged that CSF officers beat and
stripped a protester near the presidential palace during the previous day.

So far, at least 57 people have been killed in clashes with security forces.

“The Central Security Forces then found him lying on the ground and
tried to put him in an armored vehicle, though the way in which they did
that was excessive,” Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim said.

The ruling Muslim Brotherhood has insisted that the Army would not be
used to decide the dispute with the opposition. A senior member said
Morsi would also reject opposition demands for the military to help mediate
a solution to end the unrest.

“The Egyptian Army belongs to the people,” Brotherhood deputy leader
Essam Al Erian said. “The Army will not return to a recent situation that
caused harm to its personnel and commanders.”

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