Egyptian police expected to act against pro-Morsi protesters Monday
CAIRO - Reuters
Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi shout slogans while holding Egyptian flags, at Rabaa Adawiya square in Cairo, Aug. 11. REUTERS photoEgyptian police are expected to start taking action early on Monday Aug. 12 against supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi who are gathered in protest camps in Cairo, security and government sources said on Aug. 11, a move which could trigger more bloodshed.
The camps are the main flashpoints in the confrontation between the army, which toppled Mursi last month, and supporters who demand his reinstatement.
Western and Arab mediators and some members of the Egyptian government have been trying to persuade the army to avoid using force to disperse the protesters, who at times can number as much as tens of thousands.
Any further violence would almost certainly deepen Egypt's political crisis and keep the government from dealing with vital issues such as the fragile economy.
"State security troops will be deployed around the sit-ins by dawn as a start of procedures that will eventually lead to a dispersal," said a senior security source, adding that the first step will be to surround the camps.
Another security source said the decision to take action, just after celebrations following the holy month of Ramadan, came after a meeting between the interior minister and his aides.
Army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who toppled Morsi, has come under pressure from hardline military officers to move against the protesters, security sources say.
Almost 300 people have been killed in political violence since the overthrow, including dozens of Morsi supporters shot dead by security forces in two incidents.
Any further bloodshed would almost certainly deepen Egypt's political crisis and keep the government from dealing with vital issues such as the fragile economy.
"The first step towards ending the sit-ins will start at dawn when protesters will be surrounded," said a government official.
Protesters stay 'psychologically prepared'
Morsi's supporters, mainly from his Muslim Brotherhood, have turned the camps into something resembling fortresses. Sandbags and piles of big rocks have been set up all over.
Guards with sticks wear motorcycle helmets in anticipation of a raid that would require security forces to crack down in a heavily congested area that includes children.
Egyptian authorities have warned the protesters to leave the camps or face the consequences. Some Morsi supporters are growing increasingly nervous, fearful that police could storm their gathering at any minute.
"They cut off the electricity," said one protester by telephone. The government later issued a statement saying the blackout at the largest camp in northeast Cairo was unintentional.
Most Morsi supporters remain defiant, and spend their time at the camps reading the Koran and listening to Brotherhood leaders and clerics deliver lectures in the stifling heat.
Responding to the news that police were expected to storm the gatherings early Monday, protester Mustafa Al-Khateeb said: "We are staying and are psychologically prepared for anything and have secured the protests areas and their entrances and exists."
The camps are widely seen as the last card in the Muslim Brotherhood's hands now that the leadership has been weakened and become highly unpopular on the streets.
Thousands of supporters marched from their camp near Cairo University through the centre of the city to the other camp at Rabaa al-Adawiya on Aug. 11.
"Yes, yes for our president Mursi," they chanted, waving the Egyptian flag and posters of their deposed leader.