Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Egyptian Army Commander Warns Latest Protests "Could Lead to a Collapse of the State"

In comments posted on the Egyptian Army's official Facebook page, Army Commander General Abdul Fatah al Sisi warned that the ongoing unrest and demonstrations against Muslim Brotherhood-backed president Mohammed Morsi could lead to a total collapse of the Egyptain state and "threaten future generations".
He made his statement following a large military deployment in three cities along the Suez Canal where a state of emergency has been declared.

More than 50 people have died in days of protests and violence.

In response, President Mohammed Morsi has cut short a planned European trip.

His spokesman said he would still visit Germany on Wednesday as planned, but the two-day trip has been cut to just a few hours and a visit to France has been cancelled.

On Monday night, thousands of people in Port Said, Ismailia and Suez - where some of the worst unrest has been - ignored a night-time curfew imposed by Mr Morsi to take to the streets.

Thousands were again on the streets of Port Said on Tuesday for the latest funerals of those killed, with mourners calling for the downfall of the president.

There were also was continuing sporadic clashes in the capital, Cairo.

Gen Sisi's lengthy statement appears to be a veiled threat to protesters and opposition forces as well as an appeal for calm and an attempt to reassure Egyptians about the role of the military, the BBC's Yolande Knell in Cairo says.
The latest unrest stems from an Egyptian court in Port Said sentencing 21 defendants to death for their part in a postgame soccer melee that killed more than 70 people last year.
Immediately after Saturday's verdict was read live on state TV, two policemen were shot dead outside Port Said's main prison when angry relatives tried to storm the facility to free the defendants. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets, as well as live rounds, at the crowd outside the prison.

In other parts of the city, residents tried to storm the governor's office, police stations, the power station and the main court building. Residents occupied one police station in the east of Port Said.

The director of hospitals in Port Said, Abdel-Raham Farah, said two local soccer players were shot to death Saturday as they were apparently on their way to practice. He identified them as Mahmoud Abdel-Halim al-Dizawi, who played for the city's Al-Marikh club, and Tamer al-Fahla, who used to play for the city's main Al-Masry team. Al-Diwazi was shot three times, the doctor said.
The widespread unrest also coincides with the second anniversary of the Arab Spring uprising that eventually led to the ousting of Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

After an interim military junta ruled Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi was elected to the office of president in the June 2012 presidential elections. However, he has been facing increasing opposition after granting himself and his cabinet sweeping new powers and immunity from Egypt's judicial branch in November.

Morsi insisted these new powers were temporary and would be relinquished once a new constitution was put in place for Egypt. A Muslim Brotherhood-backed draft was approved by voters in December, although critics said it provided no protection for minorities or women in Egypt.

However, by Monday, protesters in other Egyptian cities were clashing with riot police. Looters seized the opportunity to break into a luxury hotel along the Nile River in the capital city of Cairo on Tuesday. The death toll in Port Said alone is at least 39 people. Opposition demonstrators claim that gangs of sexual predators are roaming the area around Tahrir Square, harassing and assaulting female demonstrators with the tacit approval of the regime.

Meanwhile, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has proposed legislation that would halt the sale of arms to Egypt. Last year, Lockheed Martin [NYSE- LMT] delivered 20 F-16 fighter jets to Egypt as part of a 2010 agreement reached with the Mubarak regime. However, no less than a dozen additional F-16s and 200 Abrams tanks will reportedly be sent to Egypt by the end of 2013.

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