MS Risk Blog

Security Update for Egypt (1 February 2013)

Posted on in Egypt title_rule

On Friday evening, clashes between Central Security Forces (CSF) and protesters escalated as fireworks and Molotov cocktails were hurled at the Ettehadiya Presidential Palace in Cairo.

Thousands of protesters, carrying flags of up to 18 opposition parties, gathered on Friday to demand the removal of Morsi and his predominantly Islamist government. Demonstrators blockaded part of Merghany Street, not far from the palace. Another group of protesters held a sit-in at the palace.

The conflict began when a group of protesters moved the crowd control barriers near the palace. As security guards attempted to quell the protesters, dozens of Black Bloc protesters arrived, shouting anti-Morsi chants. Protesters threw about two dozen petrol bombs and launched fireworks outside of the palace, chanting, “Leave, Leave.”

Sources say that one Molotov cocktail made it onto presidential grounds, setting Gate 4 of the palace alight. The Interior Ministry sent five CSF armoured vehicles to the scene, and forced protesters away from the presidential palace using water hoses and tear gas. The CSF then torched the protesters’ makeshift tents.

National Salvation Front leader and Constitution Party head Mohamed ElBaradei said that the goals of the revolution should be achieved using the same peaceful methods that brought down former President Hosni Mubarak. Opposition groups which hold these protests are calling for a new Constitution based on national consensus, and an end to Brotherhood domination in the Egyptian government.

Who is the Black Bloc?

The Black Bloc, so named because of their black outfits and black balaclavas, have emerged on the streets and in the social networks sites of Egypt in the past week. The group introduced themselves on Facebook on 21 January and already has over 43,000 followers. They also released a YouTube video on 24 January, which states that their mission is to fight “against the fascist regime and their armed wing.

The group is vehemently against President Morsi, and are willing to use force to defend demonstrators against Islamists and state security forces. On Monday, Black Bloc protesters in Port Said demanded that Morsi lift the state of emergency and release all protesters arrested during demonstrations. They blocked surrounding streets and lit tires on fire, and threatened to burn the security directorate if their demands weren’t met. Black Blocs have also been seen in Cairo and Alexandria, blockading bridges, guarding the entrances to Tahrir Square, and joining in demonstrations.

On Tuesday, Egypt’s public prosecutor, Talaat Abdallah, ordered police and army officers to arrest Black Bloc members, and called on the public to hand over anyone suspected belonging to the group, accusing them of being an “organised group that participates in terrorist acts …. and (commits) crimes that affect national security.”