Egypt army chief warns state could collapse in current turmoil
By Hamza Hendawi, APCAIRO--Egypt's army chief warned Tuesday that the state could collapse if the latest political crisis roiling the nation drags on but also defended the right of people to protest.
January 30, 2013, 12:07 am TWN
Troops deployed in the two riot-torn Suez Canal cities of Port Said and Suez stood by and watched Monday night as thousands took to the streets in direct defiance of a night curfew and a state of emergency declared by the president a day earlier. Residents of those two cities and Ismailiya, a third city also the emergency, marched through the streets just as the curfew came into force at 9 p.m.
The display of contempt for the president's decision was tantamount to an outright rebellion that many worried could spread to other parts of the country. Already, protesters across much of Egypt are battling police, cutting off roads and railway lines, and besieging government offices and police stations as part of a growing revolt against the rule of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood group.
At least 60 people have been killed since Friday.
“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,” said the army chief, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who is both head of the military and defense minister.
The warning was the military's first public comment since the latest crisis erupted last week around the second anniversary of the uprising. El-Sissi was speaking to military academy cadets and the comments were posted on the armed forces' official Facebook page.
On Sunday night, Morsi ordered the army to restore order in the Suez Canal cities of Port Said and Suez and slapped a 30-day state of emergency and night curfew on the two cities as wells as Ismailiya. The army has not deployed in Ismailiya, however, which has seen little of the deadly violence flaring in the other two cities.
On Tuesday, tanks were fanned out on the streets of Port Said, a strategic city of some 600,000 located 140 miles northeast of Cairo on the Mediterranean coast and at the tip of the Suez Canal. New funerals were held for six more of those killed in clashes, with thousands marching and chanting against Morsi.
“Erhal! Erhal!” or “Leave, leave!” the mourners chanted.