CAIRO: Supporters of deposed Islamist President Mohamed Morsi manned makeshift barriers as they braced for a crackdown as early as Monday on their Cairo protest camps following the expiry of a government ultimatum.
Morsi loyalists, led by his Muslim Brotherhood movement, have kept in place two huge protest camps in the capital and have also staged almost daily demonstrations around Egypt against the Islamist leader’s July 3 ouster by the military.
The country’s army-installed interim leaders have repeatedly warned them to leave, even promising the Brotherhood a return to political life for an end to the protests.
With over 250 people killed since Morsi was overthrown and detained, authorities say they are eager to avoid more bloodshed.
The dispersal of the sit-ins will be “gradual,” with protesters given “several warnings” before police move in, senior security officials said.
“There will be a series of gradual steps. We will announce every step along the way,” said an interior ministry general.
Once the siege begins, the protesters will be “surrounded,” no one will be let into the sit-ins and the protesters will be given several warnings to leave, another security official said.
“This will last two to three days,” he said.
At the main Rabaa al-Adawiya sit-in, dozens of men wearing helmets and holding clubs guarded makeshift brickwall barriers.
Those in the camp insisted they were not scared of the looming crackdown.
It’s Muslim “doctrine that there is nothing worse than turning your back,” one protester said.
Others acknowledged that police will eventually break through if they want.
“We will have martyrs. It will be a high price to pay, but there will be victory in the long run,” another said.
Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s highest seat of learning, meanwhile, announced a last-ditch effort to resolve the tense political standoff and called for reconciliation talks between the rivals.
But Morsi loyalists defiantly called for new massive protests on Tuesday after again rallying to demand his reinstatement and condemn the army.
Senior Muslim Brotherhood official, Farid Ismail, told a news conference: “We want to send a message to the coup leaders: the Egyptian people insists on continuing its revolution . . . And the people will insist on turning out in all squares.”