Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat-Egypt’s defense minister warned Tuesday of the “the collapse of the state” if the current political crisis continues.
Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, head of the Egyptian military warned that the present political conflict could lead to the collapse of the state and that protecting the Suez Canal was one of the main objectives of the army deployment to nearby cities shaken by violence.
El-Sissi’s comments are the first from the powerful military since the country’s latest crisis began last week around the second anniversary of Egypt’s uprising. They came days after President Mohammed Mursi ordered the army to restore order in the Suez Canal cities of Port Said and Suez-two of three cities now under a 30-day state of emergency and night curfew.
The attempts by Mursi to stem a wave of political violence appear to have made no headway as the country sinks deeper into chaos and lawlessness. So far, nearly 60 people have been killed in five days of unrest.
“The continuation of the conflict between the different political forces and their differences over how the country should be run could lead to the collapse of the state and threaten future generations,” el-Sissi said in an address to military academy cadets. His comments were posted on the armed forces’ official Facebook page.
Meanwhile, an unpredictable new element has entered Egypt’s wave of political unrest: a mysterious group of masked young men called the Black Bloc who present themselves as the defenders of protesters opposed to the Islamist president’s rule.
They boast that they’re willing to use force to fight back against Islamists who have attacked protesters in the past – or against police who crack down on demonstrations. The youths with faces hidden under black masks have appeared among stone-throwing protesters in clashes with police around Egypt the past five days in the wave of political violence that has shaken the country.
During protests in Cairo on Monday, masked youths celebrated around a police armored vehicle in flames in the middle of Tahrir Square, waving their hands in V-for-victory signs.
Their emergence has raised concerns even among fellow members of the opposition, who fear the group could spark Islamist retaliation or that it could be infiltrated to taint their movement. Islamist supporters of President Mursi call the bloc a militia and have used it to depict the opposition as a violent force wrecking the nation.
Moreover, some Islamists have threatened to form vigilante groups in response, creating the potential for a spiral of violence between rival “militias.” The bloc’s appearance comes amid increasing opposition frustration with Mursi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, and the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists who critics say have imposed a monopoly on power.
Fifty-two people have died in five days of violence that erupted Thursday night in Egypt as the country marked the second anniversary of the start of the uprising that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak.
A curfew has been imposed in three provinces-Port Said, Ismailiya and Suez.
The bloodiest clashes and most of the deaths have occurred in Port Said, with rioting breaking out on Saturday after 21 supporters of a local football club were sentenced to death for their roles in a deadly football riot last year.