Tanks stood at intersections and roadblocks cut main thoroughfares in Egypt on Tuesday, as authorities tightened security during the annual Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday amid continued deadlock between supporters of the ousted Islamist president and the military-backed interim government.
Troops sealed off Cairo’s iconic Tahrir square with rows of armored vehicles and barbed wire, hoping to thwart any new attempt by supporters of Mohammed Mursi to enter. In recent weeks, they have tried to storm the iconic plaza, the birthplace of the 2011 uprising that forced longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak from power. Authorities have repeatedly warned pro-Mursi protesters from heading to Tahrir to avoid confrontations.
Security, already volatile since 2011, has worsened since the military overthrew Mursi in July following mass protests calling for his resignation.
The interim authorities have launched a major security crackdown on Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood, arresting nearly 2,000 members, charging its top leaders with inciting murder and violence, and breaking up demonstrations by Mursi supporters with what rights groups call excessive force that has killed hundreds. Mursi himself has been detained incommunicado.
The crackdown has not prevented Mursi supporters from holding near-daily protests demanding his return however, even though fewer now attend since they regularly descend into violence. Clashes have often erupted between the protesters and security forces and supporters of the military.
For the Eid holiday, the faithful prayed in neighborhood mosques Tuesday at sunrise to celebrate the Prophet Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice his son to God. Interim president Adly Mansour and Egypt army commander Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi appeared on state television, praying at an air force mosque in an eastern Cairo district.
Blood pooled in Cairo’s streets as sheep and cattle were slaughtered as part of the festivities.
In an Eid blessing published Monday on his Facebook page, Brotherhood leader Essam el-Erian asked from God “more freedom” for his country’s political life.
Erian, who is wanted on charges of inciting Mursi supporters to kill opponents of his rule, is currently in hiding.
Since Mursi’s ouster, the military and interim government have been following a transitional roadmap whose stated objective is to lead the country to democracy. It entails amending the Islamist-backed constitution and holding presidential and parliamentary elections by next year.