Egypt army chief calls for mass rallies in support of new regime

Abdel-Fattah Sissi delivers a speech in Cairo on Wednesday. Egypt State TV via AP

CAIRO – The army chief who led the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi on Wednesday called for Egyptians to stage mass rallies later this week in support of the interim military-backed regime.

In a speech Wednesday, Gen. Abdel Fatah el-Sissi called on supporters to fill public squares across the country on Friday in support of a campaign by the army and police against "violence" and "terrorism."

His comments were a reference to the deadly clashes between opponents and supporters of Morsi, which have left dozens dead, and to a surge in suspected Islamic militancy in the Sinai Peninsula.

"I am asking the Egyptians next Friday, all of you come down. Why? To delegate me to face the violence and terrorism," he said in his speech at a graduation ceremony for naval and air defense forces.

"If violence is used, the army will fulfill whatever measures to combat violence and terrorism."

His comments came hours after two people were killed in Cairo when pro-Morsi demonstrators marched from a neighborhood to the location of the sit-in where protesters have been camped out since the president’s July 3 ouster.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s ministry of health said 19 people were injured when a bomb – possibly a hand grenade – was thrown at a police station in the city of Mansoura, capital of Dakhalia province.

The ministry said civilians were among the injured but it did not give a breakdown.

El-Sissi’s call was almost immediately condemned by a senior member of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, Reuters reported.

“Your threat will not stop the millions from continuing to gather,” Essam El-Erian wrote on his Facebook page on Wednesday, calling el-Sissi “a coup leader who kills women, children and those at prayer.” 

NBC News' Alastair Jamieson and Reuters contributed to this report.