News Column

Egyptian Army Leader Warns of 'Collapse'

Jan. 29, 2013

The leader of Egypt's army, as violence escalates across the country, Tuesday warned of the collapse of the state if political forces failed to reconcile.

"The continuation of the conflict between different political forces and their disagreement on running the affairs of the country may lead to the collapse of the state and threatens the future of the coming generations," said Gen. Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi, who also serves as Defense minister.

Sisi, quoted on the army's Facebook page, also said an attempt to influence the stability of the state institutions "is a dangerous matter that harms Egyptian national security," The New York Times reported.

The worst of the turmoil was in Port Said, which has seen 45 deaths in three days, where Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi imposed a month-long state of emergency, calling on the army to regain control of security.

The state of emergency, also declared for two other cities in the Suez Canal zone, all but eliminates due process, letting police investigate, arrest and detain suspects without trial.

The overall death toll in the anti-Morsi unrest in Port Said, Suez and Ismailia, near the Suez Canal, and Cairo, the capital, was at least 59, health officials said.

State-run media said anti-government protesters ignored Morsi's curfew and clashed with police and troops, state-run media reported Tuesday.

"He declared a curfew, and we declare civil disobedience," one person attending a funeral Monday in Port Said told the Times.

Thousands of Egyptians across the country defied the clampdown and took to the streets within 20 minutes after the nighttime curfew Monday, CNN said.

In clashes Monday, at least five protesters were killed by bullets, hospital officials said.

The struggle pits Egypt's first democratically elected president and dissidents who say Morsi' tenure is a throwback to the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted two years ago, CNN said. Morsi announced the nighttime curfew for the provinces of Port Said, Suez and Ismailia Sunday.

Besides the unrest in the Canal zone cities, violence was reported overnight in Cairo, with police firing tear gas at activists. Protesters stole an armored police vehicle, drove it to Tahrir Square, then set it ablaze, the Times said.

Riots spread to the country's second-largest city of Alexandria.

Egyptians, after toppling Mubarak, have watched their country fall further into chaos where violence is becoming an acceptable means of resolving disputes, Michael Hanna, a researcher at the New York-based Century Foundation now in Cairo, told the Times.

"There is a clear political crisis that has eroded the moral authority of the state," he said.

The scores of deaths in Port Said prompted Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, to denounce the violence and call upon all parties to talk.

"While at least two policemen are among those killed, preliminary unconfirmed reports suggest that most of the casualties have been caused by live fire and excessive use of tear gas by the authorities," Pillay said in a statement.

Her statement also said about 25 female protesters reportedly were sexually assaulted in Cairo's Tahrir Square during the past few days, "in some cases with extraordinary violence."

Egypt's Defense Ministry has denied reports that the army used live ammunition on protesters, state-run media reported.

Source: Copyright United Press International 2013