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In shift of rhetoric, Sisi says Muslim Brotherhood 'part of Egypt'

The Egyptian president had vowed to 'wipe out' the Muslim Brotherhood, which he branded as 'terrorist organisation'
A portrait supporting Egypt's former president Mohamed Morsi (R) and criticising Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (L) with demonstrators outside Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque on 24 July 2013 (AFP)

In a marked shift from earlier statements, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi on Wednesday described the embattled Muslim Brotherhood group as "part of Egypt".

"They [the Brotherhood] are part of Egypt," Sisi said in an interview with the BBC.

He added, however, that it was up to the "Egyptian people" to "decide what role they can play".

The shift in rhetoric came as Sisi began a three-day visit on Wednesday to the UK, the first such visit by an Egyptian leader to the country in the last 13 years.

The Muslim Brotherhood has remained the target of a harsh government crackdown since mid-2013, when Mohamed Morsi - Egypt’s first freely elected president and a Brotherhood leader - was ousted and imprisoned following a military coup lead by Sisi. 

In late 2013, the post-coup Egyptian government designated the Brotherhood as a "terrorist organisation".

Ahead of last year’s presidential election, Sisi vowed to "wipe out" the Brotherhood if elected.

In the more than two years since Morsi's overthrow, security forces have killed hundreds - and detained tens of thousands - of Brotherhood members and Morsi supporters.

Scores of Muslim Brotherhood leaders and members, including Morsi himself, have been sentenced to death.

Sisi, however, has said that many of those sentenced to death were unlikely to be executed, either because they had been convicted in absentia or because the sentences would be appealed.