Aug 12 2013
Supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi have fortified their two Cairo sit-in site as Egyptian security officials said their forces will move against the entrenched protest camps.
At the main sit-in, vendors said they have sold hundreds of gas masks, goggles and gloves to protesters readying for police tear gas. Three waist-high barriers of concrete and wood have been built against armoured vehicles.
Egypt, where more than 250 people have been killed in clashes since Mr Morsi was toppled on July 3, is braced for more violence as the four-day Muslim Eid celebrations wrapped up yesterday to end the holy month of Ramadan. The security officials said they would set up cordons around the protest sites to bar anyone from entering.
The interior ministry has promised to take gradual measures, issuing warnings in recent weeks and saying it would use water cannons and tear gas to minimise casualties. It has said it is prepared for clashes that might be set off by the cordons. Officials said police are working with the health ministry to ensure ambulances are on hand for the wounded and that armoured police vans are nearby to take away those arrested.
A special force within the interior ministry's riot police that are trained for crowd dispersal will deal with protesters. Egypt's military-backed interim leadership alleges the sit-ins and protests have frightened residents, sparked deadly violence and disrupted traffic in the capital.
The protesters blame the interior ministry and "thugs" for past violence, including a July 8 clash between demonstrators and security forces that left more than 80 dead.
Just before the holiday, the government said international efforts failed to reach a diplomatic solution to the stand-off with Mr Morsi's supporters, who include members of his Muslim Brotherhood. The Cabinet said the decision to clear the main sit-in site outside the Rabaah al-Adawiya Mosque and a smaller one in nearby Giza near Cairo University was "irreversible".
The protesters, who demand Mr Morsi's reinstatement as Egypt's first freely elected president, are expecting an imminent security push to clear them out and they have been fortifying their positions.
Security officials say they suspect that Brotherhood guards around the mosque in Rabaah al-Adawiya Square are well-armed. They also say both camps have armed protesters on rooftops ready to shoot.
Of the more than 250 people killed since Mr Morsi was toppled, at least 130 of them were his supporters who died in two clashes with security forces last month. For Morsi supporters, the sit-ins are one of the last ways to express themselves against the new government.