Egypt's interior minister warns of 'scheme to incite chaos'

Egypt's interior minister warns of 'scheme to incite chaos'
Egypt's interior minister accused the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood of scheming to incite chaos, saying the country faced "unprecedented challenges" ahead of popular protests planned for next month.
3 min read
25 October, 2016
Egyptian authorities fear rising levels of public discontent due to increasing prices [AFP]

Egypt's interior minister accused the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group of scheming to incite chaos, saying the country faced "unprecedented challenges" that required a "decisive" response by security forces, in comments published Monday.

The minister's comments were the latest sign of alarm by the Egyptian government over possible unrest as result of worsening economic conditions.

Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar said the Brotherhood was seeking through "conspiratorial schemes to incite chaos and confusion with the aim of creating skepticism over the ability of the state and its institutions to satisfy popular expectations."

"The security forces will not, under any circumstances, tolerate any attempt to repeat the scenes of chaos and sabotage at a time when the country is moving forward with firm steps toward a promising future, God willing," said the minister.

Abdel Ghaffar did not elaborate, but appeared to be alluding to the 2011 popular uprising that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt's police force largely melted away on the fourth day of the 18-day uprising, when police stations were stormed and thousands of inmates broke out from a number of prisons.

The minister’s comments are the latest warning by officials and pro-government media against what they say are calls by the Brotherhood for street demonstrations on November 11 against rising prices and other economic woes.

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There has been no reliable evidence that the Brotherhood was specifically behind the call for protests next month, although the group has consistently encouraged anti-government protests since the 2013 military coup that overthrew Mohamed Morsi.

In an October 14 statement posted on its website, the Muslim Brotherhood urged Egyptians to rise up and topple Sisi's government, but gives no specific date for the demonstrations it is calling for.

Sisi appeared to refer to these planned protests when, in a meeting with government leaders Saturday, he urged authorities to be on high alert and beef up the defence of vital state installations.

The meeting came just hours after a senior Egyptian army officer was gunned down outside his home in an eastern Cairo suburb.

The Egyptian presidency has issued near-daily statements saying Sisi is instructing ministers to ensure the availability of basic staples at affordable prices and to prosecute any merchants found to be hoarding food supplies, in a sign of growing government anxiety over public discontent.

The fears come as shortages and rising food prices are feeding anger among Egyptians, who are also enduring new taxes and a hike in utility bills.

The government must also introduce a package of economic reforms, including the devaluation of the pound and lifting fuel subsidies, to secure a $12-billion dollar loan from the International Monetary Fund to bail out Egypt's ailing economy.

Egypt is suffering an acute foreign currency shortage because of the decimation of its lucrative tourism industry, a fall in Suez Canal revenues and reduced remittances from Egyptian expatriates. It also suffers from double digit rates of inflation and unemployment.

The country’s economic crisis comes as Egypt's security forces are battling an Islamic militant insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula.

Agencies contributed to this report