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Brotherhood leader held

CAIRO: The leader of the Muslim Brotherhood was arrested by Egyptian security forces yesterday in a crackdown against the Islamist movement after the army unseated the country's first democratically elected president.

The dramatic exit of President Mohamed Mursi was greeted with delight by millions of people on the streets of Cairo and other cities overnight, but there was simmering resentment among Egyptians who opposed military intervention.

The Muslim Brotherhood's supreme guide, Mohamed Badie, was arrested in the northern city of Marsa Matrouh, near the Libyan border, although security sources said they did not believe he had been trying to flee the country.

Demonstrators often chanted against Mursi and Badie in the same breath. Despite its denials, the Brotherhood never managed to shake off the image that Badie and its executive board were the silent force behind Mursi's presidency.

Prosecutors also ordered the arrest of his influential deputy Khairat El Shater after both men were charged with inciting violence against protesters outside the Brotherhood's headquarters in Cairo that was attacked on Sunday night.

Meanwhile, an Islamist coalition led by the Brotherhood called on people across the nation to protest in a "Friday of Rejection" following weekly prayers, an early test of Mursi's ongoing support and how the military will deal with it.

Perhaps aware of the risk of a polarised society, the new interim leader, judge Adli Mansour, used his inauguration to hold out an olive branch to the Brotherhood, Mursi's power base.

"The Muslim Brotherhood are part of this people and are invited to participate in building the nation as nobody will be excluded, and if they respond to the invitation, they will be welcomed," he said.

Just before he spoke, the air force staged a series of fly pasts in the smoggy skies over Cairo, a stark reminder of the military's role in the latest upheaval. The stunt, involving dozens of aircraft, was repeated at dusk.

But a senior Brotherhood official said it would not work with "the usurper authorities". Another of its politicians said Mursi's overthrow would push other groups, though not his own, to violent resistance.

Deeply divided, Egypt's 84 million people are again a focus of concern in a region traumatised by the civil war in Syria.

At least 16 people have been killed and hundreds wounded in street clashes across Egypt since Mursi's overthrow.

Mursi was in military custody, army and Brotherhood sources said, and authorities opened an investigation into accusations that he and 15 other Islamists insulted the judiciary.

However, US President Barack Obama, whose administration provides $1.3 billion a year to the Egyptian military, expressed concern about Mursi's removal and called for a swift return to a democratically elected civilian government.

But he stopped short of condemning the military move in a way that might block US aid. A senator involved in aid decisions said the US would cut off its financial support if the intervention was deemed a military coup.

Israel avoided any show of satisfaction over the fall of an Islamist president.

Germany called the latest events in Egypt "a serious setback for democracy" while Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he was "gravely concerned" about the situation.

The markets reacted positively to Mursi's exit. Egypt's main stock index rose 7.3 per cent on the day.



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