Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood vowed Thursday to continue its "peaceful" resistance against the country's military until ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi is reinstated, as thousands rallied at a mosque in Cairo.
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.
The Brotherhood is outraged by the overthrow of Morsi and demands nothing less than his release from detention and his reinstatement as president.
"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."
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.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern Thursday about the demonstrations and arrest warrants for Muslim Brotherhood members, Reuters reports.
He said in a phone call with Egypt Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamal Amr that there is "no place for retribution or for the exclusion of any major party or community in Egypt."
U.S. State Department Jen Psaki said Thursday that "the arrests we have seen over the past several days targeting specific groups are not in line with the national reconciliation that the interim government and the military say they are pursuing."
The Brotherhood 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.
Gunmen in a pickup truck opened fire on Wasfi's convoy late Wednesday, drawing fire from the accompanying troops, security officials said. The commander escaped unharmed but a 5-year-old girl was killed in the clashes, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. One gunman was arrested.
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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.