Cairo - About 1 000 people marched in Cairo's Tahrir Square
on Monday night to condemn the actions of Egyptian security forces and some
voiced rare criticism of the army chief, raising tension on the eve of planned
Large numbers of demonstrators were expected to turn out on
Tuesday, extending turmoil that has dogged Egypt since the army ousted elected
Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and has wrecked investment and tourism in the
major, US-allied Arab state.
Monday's rally began in the afternoon to commemorate people
killed in clashes with security forces two years ago, then turned into chanting
against General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, whose forces toppled Morsi in July.
Army and police who had been stationed by armoured personnel
carriers after sealing off Tahrir melted away by the time the protesters
arrived at the square, the heart of the 2011 popular uprising that ejected
autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
"A word in your ear, Sisi, don't dream of being my
president!" the protesters yelled. It was not clear why army and police
units made no attempt to stop the demonstrators.
Sisi has become wildly popular in Egypt since Morsi’s exit,
and many believe he would win if he runs for president in elections expected
But some Egyptians are opposed both to Morsi’s Muslim
Brotherhood and the current military-steered government, and they dominated the
Tahrir Square rally.
High profile shooting
Tuesday's expected mass protests will commemorate the second
anniversary of the deaths of 42 people opposed to the military council ruling
Egypt at the time in clashes with security forces on Mohamed Mahmoud Street,
The army toppled Morsi a year after he took over from the
generals who have dominated Egypt for decades.
A major element in the instability plaguing Egypt since then
has been militants based in the volatile Sinai who have stepped up violence
since July, killing security forces almost daily in the peninsula near Israel.
Militant operations in Cairo have stirred concern that an
Islamist insurgency could take hold beyond the Sinai in the Arab world's
largest country, which contains the Suez Canal, the vital, quickest sea route
between Asia and Europe.
The army says a political roadmap will lead to free and fair
elections and stability to Egypt, where the revolt that brought down Mubarak in
February 2011 raised prospects for democracy after decades of authoritarian
On Sunday, Interior Ministry Lieutenant-Colonel Mohamed
Mabruk was shot dead outside his home in Cairo's Nasr City district, the
highest-profile killing in Cairo since Mursi's overthrow following mass unrest
against his rule.
The attack occurred three days after a three-month curfew
and state of emergency were lifted.
Mabruk, who was gunned down by masked men, was in charge of
monitoring the Muslim Brotherhood movement in the Interior Ministry's National
"Our investigations point to Islamic jihadists carrying
out this assassination with political motives," a security official told
Reuters. "They were taking revenge on Mabruk because he took care of a
very high-profile file."
A small minority of hardcore activists are using the
anniversary of the November 2011 clashes on Mohamed Mahmoud Street to highlight
the actions of security forces who have acted mostly with impunity in political
upheaval since 2011.
In unusual defiance of the army, some activists wrote on
social media about their desire to overthrow what they call the new
"military junta", a reference to the interim government installed by
the army after Morsi’s removal.
"Our goal must be summed up as the downfall of the ruling
military junta," an activist said on a Facebook page set up to organise
the protests that begin this evening.
Interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi visited Tahrir
earlier in the day to lay the cornerstone of a planned memorial that is
The government says the monument will honour the
"martyrs" not only of the 2011 anti-Mubarak uprising, but also of
what it calls the "June 30 revolution," referring to the date of the
mass disturbances that precipitated Morsi’s ouster.
Activists say it insults the memory of protesters killed by
security forces. "Creating a memorial to say we respect the souls of the
martyrs without ensuring accountability is basically a joke," said Ziad
Abdel Tawab of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.
Some protesters sprayed graffiti on the monument on Monday.
Aside from the Mohamed Mahmoud protests, an Islamist
coalition that includes the Brotherhood has called on backers to take to the
streets, and Tuesday is Sisi's birthday, raising the possibility that his own
followers will demonstrate too.