Egypt vows to confront planned Islamist protests

Islamists have called for nationwide protests in Egypt on Friday

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Egyptian authorities are bracing for potential violence on Friday following calls by Islamists for nationwide protests against the government, with security forces vowing to crackdown on any unrest.

Islamists have called on their followers to carry copies of the Muslim holy book, the Quran, during the protests. The tactic is seen as a way to portray potential attacks by security forces as attacks against Islam and its sacred text.

But the Interior Ministry said it has prepared special security units to deal with such new kind of protests.

The ministry also announced that it broke up a “terrorist” cell associated with the Muslim Brotherhood that was planning to spread nationwide unrest on Friday.

It said the group members were planning to disguise in military uniforms for conducting terror operations.

The Islamists’ call for nationwide rallies Friday is the first attempt in months to hold large protests in the face of an overwhelming crackdown. It remains uncertain whether they will succeed in pulling large numbers into the streets.

Security forces deployed in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square on Thursday evening. Many Egyptians say they are canceling social gatherings, avoiding public transportation and remaining home Friday, fearing that bombings or other attacks could take place, according to the Associated Press.

The country's powerful army on Thursday took charge of protecting vital state installations following an order to this end last month by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

This comes as the cabinet approved on Wednesday a draft anti-terrorism law that would give the government blanket power to ban groups on charges ranging from harming national unity to disrupting public order.

The government already has broad security powers and has been able to exercise them largely at will - jailing thousands of Mursi supporters and more recently many leading lights of the 2011 uprising - because of many Egyptians' weariness with lawlessness that crippled the economy after Mubarak's fall.

[With AP]