Egypt: Army warns of state 'collapse'


An protester waves the Egyptian flag near a police vehicle on fire in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Jan. 28, 2013.


Mohammed Abed

CAIRO, Egypt — Egypt's defense minister warned Tuesday of the "collapse of the state" if chaos and rebellion continue in Egyptian cities. In Port Said alone, 45 people have so far been killed in clashes.

General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's comments were the first from the military, according to Agence France-Presse, since last week's anniversary of Egypt's revolution, when the violence began. The anniversary also fell several days after President Mohammed Morsi decreed a 30-day state of emergency in Suez Canal cities.

"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," el-Sisi said, addressing military cadets.

El-Sisi, appointed by Morsi last year, added that troops in the Suez Canal were there to protect "vital" waterways, saying attacks on state institutions were "a serious matter that harms Egyptian national security and the future of Egypt," according to outlets citing the Army's official Facebook page, where his remarks were posted.

GlobalPost Senior Correspondent Erin Cunningham said Egypt witnessed overnight Monday widespread defiance of Morsi’s curfew, indicating further erosion of his already shaky authority.

"Whether or not the state is near collapse is unclear, though the potential for continued unrest remains high and the moral jurisdiction of the state in certain areas is still under attack," Cunningham said from Cairo.

An international hotel was stormed and looted off Tahrir Square and there was a prison-break attempted by armed gunmen in Port Said. There has been a partial breakdown of law and order, particularly in Port Said but also in central Cairo where clashes between protesters and police are ongoing, Cunningham said.

"Neither citizens nor the police or army respected or obeyed the curfew, which may point to deeper rifts between the ruling Muslim Brotherhood and the security forces that have long been suspicious of the Islamists," Cunningham said. "Some analysts fear a renewed military takeover to contain the situation and oust Morsi and his Brotherhood allies, or an even more dangerous fracture among police forces whom are restless after being targeted by armed citizens."

If the violence continues at current levels, “the security apparatus will not remain cohesive,” Ziad Akl, senior researcher at Al Ahram Center for Strategic Studies, told GlobalPost. “Out of the police force, a movement will spring out and say it no longer follows the orders of the interior minister and Mohamed Morsi.”

On Sunday Morsi announced on state television: "The protection of the nation is the responsibility of everyone. We will confront any threat to its security with force and firmness within the remit of the law."