Egyptian Minister of the Interior Mohammed Ibrahim yesterday pledged to deal decisively with any attempts to destabilize the country, a thinly veiled warning to supporters of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi occupying two squares in Cairo in a month-long stand-off with the security forces.
The warning came as authorities said that the death toll in weekend clashes between Morsi’s Islamist backers and security forces near one of those sit-ins had reached 72, in the deadliest single outbreak of violence since the July 3 military coup.
“I assure the people of Egypt that the police are determined to maintain security and safety to their nation and are capable of doing so,” Ibrahim told a graduation ceremony at the national police academy.
“We will very decisively deal with any attempt to undermine stability,” Ibrahim said.
On Friday, millions took to the streets in a show of support for General Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, the military chief who ousted Morsi. Those protests were in response to al-Sissi’s call for a mandate to tackle what he called violence and potential terrorism.
Ibrahim took an uncompromising stance in a news conference on Saturday, accusing the pro-Morsi side of provoking bloodshed to win sympathy and suggesting that authorities could move against the two main pro-Morsi protest camps: one outside the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque in eastern Cairo and another in Nahda Square, near the main campus of Cairo university.
He depicted the two encampments as a danger to the public, pointing to a string of nine bodies police have said were found nearby in recent days. Some had been tortured to death, police have said, apparently by members of the sit-ins who believed they were spies.
“Soon we will deal with both sit-ins,” Ibrahim said.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said that he spoke to Egyptian authorities, saying it is “essential” they respect the right to peaceful protest.
He called on all sides to enter a “meaningful political dialogue” to “help their country take a step back from the brink.”