Egypt issues tough warning against anti-army protests

Reuters

* Egyptian authorities warn against protests

* Political tensions hurting economy

* Two al Qaeda members with explosives are arrested

By Michael Georgy

CAIRO, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Egyptian authorities said onSaturday anyone who protests against the army on Sunday when thecountry celebrates the anniversary of an attack on Israeliforces during the 1973 war will be regarded as agents of foreignpowers.

Presidential spokesman Ahmed al-Muslimani was speaking tothe state news agency in anticipation of demonstrations by theMuslim Brotherhood, which has been staging protests against thearmy's ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in July.

Egyptian authorities tightened security around the countryafter clashes on Friday killed at least four people.

Mursi's supporters on Friday mounted their boldestdemonstrations since troops crushed protest camps demanding hisreinstatement on Aug. 14. The four who died in Cairo were allBrotherhood supporters, security sources said.

Both opponents and supporters of the Brotherhood have calledfor more mass protests on Sunday, during celebrations of theanniversary of an Egyptian attack on Israeli forces in the Sinaiduring the 1973 war. Egyptian forces broke down Israelifortifications in that attack and pushed across the Suez canal,though Israel later repulsed the advance.

"Protesters against the army on the anniversary of victory(Oct. 6, 1973 war) will be carrying out the duties of agents,not activists," the presidential spokesman said. "It is notbefitting to go from a struggle against authorities to aconflict with the nation."

State media said authorities had uncovered a plot by"terrorists" to target police installations during thecelebrations on Sunday.

The Interior Ministry said security had been stepped up onhighways, in all cities and at important installations.

Political tensions have gripped Egypt and hammered theeconomy since the army ousted Mursi, installed an interimgovernment and drew up a political road map it promised wouldbring fair elections.

In a televised speech to the nation, Interim President AdlyMansour promised that a constitution would be written toaccommodate "all Egyptians". He said free and fair parliamentaryand presidential elections would be held shortly after theconstitution is finished.

On Saturday afternoon, about 1,000 Mursi supporters tried toreach the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque area in northeast Cairo, wheresecurity forces crushed one of their protest camps in August.All but about 50 were turned back by police, who fired tear gas,security sources said.

Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said in a meeting withaides that security forces would not tolerate attempts to blockroads or "spread chaos", the state news agency reported.

"The ministry will deal with the utmost firmness anddecisiveness with any of those practices, and confront anylawlessness," it quoted him as saying.

"EVIL ELEMENTS"

The military boosted its presence around Tahrir Square -where hundreds of thousands of Egyptians demonstrated during therevolt that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011 - afterclashes on Friday in several cities.

Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi said in a statement to thenation that "evil elements" still posed a danger but had lostmuch of their power, a reference to Islamist militants.

Beblawi said the road map was "taking its natural course"and that he hoped it would conclude soon. He said the economywas starting to improve and "there were clear signs andreassuring indicators".

Authorities have cracked down hard on the Brotherhood, whichwon every election after Mubarak's fall but became unpopularduring Mursi's rule, with many Egyptians accusing him of tryingto acquire sweeping powers and mismanaging the economy,allegations he has denied.

The Brotherhood accuses the military of staging a coup andsabotaging democracy by removing Mursi, the country's firstfreely-elected president.

On Aug. 14, Egypt's military-backed authorities smashed thetwo pro-Mursi sit-ins in Cairo, with hundreds of deaths, andthen declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew. Many ofthe Brotherhood's leaders have been arrested since.

Egyptian authorities face a rising number of attacks bymilitants in the Sinai, bordering Israel and the Gaza Strip,which is controlled by the Palestinian group Hamas, an offshootof the Muslim Brotherhood.

Fears are growing that an Islamist insurgency could takehold in other parts of Egypt, a key U.S. ally which has a peacetreaty with Israel and controls the Suez Canal, a vital globaltrade route.

In September, a Sinai-based militant group inspired by alQaeda claimed responsibility for a failed suicide bombingagainst the interior minister in Cairo.

On Saturday, security forces arrested two members of alQaeda carrying hand grenades in the coastal city of MarsaMatruh, security sources said.

One of the men threw a grenade just before he wasapprehended, wounding six policemen, they said.

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