Egypt's military chief warned Tuesday of a potential "collapse of the state" after a fourth night of violent street battles between protesters and Egyptian security forces in Cairo and other major cities, heightening the prospect that the country's military might be forced to intervene.
Clashes in Egypt kill dozens: Violence continued Monday, a day after Egypt's president declared a state of emergency and nighttime curfews across three major cities to curb a wave of unrest that had left more than 45 dead and hundreds injured.
The warning from Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, who also serves as defense minister, indicated that troops could be pressed into action soon, analysts said. But it remained unclear on whose behalf the generals might interfere, underscoring the lingering questions about the scope of President Mohamed Morsi's control over the armed forces and state institutions that once answered to Hosni Mubarak.
"The continuation of this struggle between the different political forces . . . could lead to the collapse of the state and threatens the future of coming generations," Sissi told military academy cadets, according to remarks posted on the armed forces' Facebook page Tuesday.
At least 54 people have died, and hundreds more have been more injured, in five days of bitter clashes between anti-government protesters -- many armed with rocks, Molotov cocktails and in some cases live ammunition -- and the better-armed security forces.
On Tuesday, residents said that tanks and other military vehicles had fanned out on the streets of Port Said, a strategic city of 600,000 at the tip of the Suez Canal, where the violence has been the worst. Troops in Port Said and Suez stood by as thousands took to the streets overnight in defiance of a 9 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew and state of emergency declared by Morsi, an Islamist.
Egypt's weak and poorly trained police force has struggled to quell the violence that started Friday, after protesters marched through Cairo and several other cities to voice their opposition to Islamist rule under Morsi on the two-year anniversary of the uprising that ousted Mubarak.
The anti-government frenzy spread to Port Said a day later after a court imposed death sentences on 21 locals for their alleged role in a deadly soccer riot last year. Anger there, as in Cairo, spurred clashes, and then deaths, in a cycle that quickly roused thousands more protesters to participate and has expanded an opposition movement previously segmented along religious and class lines.
Many Egyptians, including the Islamists, say that the country's abusive Interior Ministry forces -- epitomized by the black-clad riot police used to suppress protests -- have changed little since the Mubarak era. In the days since the crisis began, even ranking members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which backs Morsi, have acknowledged that the police may have used excessive force.
Source: Washington Post | Abigail Hauslohner and Ingy Hassieb