Egypt may collapse, says military chief

January 30, 2013 - 3:51:17 am

Protesters use slingshots to attack riot police during clashes near Qasr El Nil bridge, in Cairo, yesterday. 

CAIRO: Egypt’s military chief warned yesterday the political crisis sweeping the country could lead to the collapse of the state, as thousands defied curfews and the death toll from days of rioting rose to 52.

“The continuing conflict between political forces and their differences concerning the management of the country could lead to a collapse of the state and threaten future generations,” said General Abdel Fattah Al Sissi.

Sissi, who is also Defence Minister, warned students at a military academy that the political, economic, social and security problems constitute “a threat to the country’s security and stability,” according to his Facebook page.

He also vowed to defend vital infrastructure, including the Suez Canal, as medics reported another three people killed in the violence sweeping Egypt, pushing to 52 the toll from five days of clashes.

The army is already deployed in the canal city of Port Said, where the worst of the bloodshed occurred in rioting triggered by death sentences passed on 21 supporters of a local football club over deadly soccer riots last year.

At the weekend, President Mohammed Mursi imposed a month-long state of emergency and curfews on the worst-hit provinces of Port Said, Ismailiya and Suez.

The Islamist-dominated Senate has since ratified a law granting the armed forces arrest powers, but Mursi’s office said yesterday he could reduce or scrap the measure if security was restored.

Thousands of demonstrators defiantly flooded the streets of the three Suez Canal cities on Monday night, chanting slogans against the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Mursi hails.

Yesterday, tear gas was fired and stones thrown in limited clashes between police and protesters around Cairo’s Tahrir Square, while sporadic gunfire rang out near Port Said prison, witnesses and security sources said.

Analysts warned there was no quick fix and Mursi would have to make concessions to the opposition and protesters demonstrating against deteriorating living conditions. “This crisis will not pass easily,” said Cairo University professor Mustafa Kamel El Sayyed.

Sayyed said a new element had emerged on the scene: “A group of young anarchists (nicknamed as the Black Bloc) who are ready to engage in violence with 

the police.”

But judicial sources said the prosecutor general had ordered the arrest of members of this shadowy militant group, who present themselves as defenders of protesters opposed to the president and his Islamist supporters.

“Inquiries have shown that the Black Bloc is an organised group which carries out terrorist actions,” said the prosecutor’s spokesman Hassan Yassine.

The prosecutor also urged “citizens to arrest anyone suspected of membership of this group and hand them over,” he added.

Sissi recognised the army had a difficult task and did not want to confront citizens who have the right to protest, but insisted — ahead of planned opposition rallies on Friday — that “protests must be peaceful”.

Opposition groups and disgruntled Egyptians accuse Mursi, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists of monopolising power and say the revolution failed to reach its goals of 

social justice. 


Boat sinks, all safe

Meanwhile, 120 tourists, most of them Egyptians, escaped unharmed when a boat sunk in the Nile river near the southern town of Aswan yesterday, a police official said.

The vessel left the pharaonic hub of Luxor before running into trouble for unknown reasons at Aswan, the official said, adding that all the passengers 

were safe. AFP