By Salma Abdullah
The military will take “all necessary measures” to secure the country ahead of the 30 June protests, the armed forces announced Wednesday amid a nationwide push to reinforce bases, major thoroughfares and vital institutions.
The military began securing Media Production City in Cairo’s 6th of October City on Tuesday evening with armed vehicles and infantry in an effort “to allow media outlets to work with the utmost freedom,” reported state-owned news agency MENA.
On Wednesday the military intensified security in the vicinity of the presidential palace and blocked entry roads, as well as the Maspero state-owned media building and the Central Bank of Egypt.
A plan is in place to protect “vital institutions,” a military official told MENA, including “the exits and entrances” to Cairo and 6th of October City. He added that deployments would be restricted to the outskirts of the major cities.
The military said it has also begun employing extra security around the vital buildings and principle streets of Alexandria, with armoured personnel carriers being positioned around the city’s Central Bank offices.
In the canal zone, meanwhile, the military deployed its troops in Ismailia around banks, hospitals and police stations. Reinforcements were added to the third field army in Suez and troops were deployed to protect petroleum refineries, the security directorate and the courts complex. Large forces were redeployed at the exits and entrances of the city to protect navigation through the Suez Canal. Entrance to the city will be prohibited for non-residents.
Suez’s chief security officer, Tarek Nassar, told Daily News Egypt that their job would be limited to “securing vital and governmental institutions.” He asserted that they would be protecting protesters regardless of their political affiliations, stressing “the police’s commitment to protect the country and its citizens.” Nassar added that they would not use weapons against peaceful protestors, but “those attacking state institutions will be dealt with firmly.”
The delta city of Qaliubiya’s Banha and Abu- Zaabal prisons were secured by troops from both the army and police to preempt any breakout attempts.
The deployment of the army was broadly welcomed throughout the various governorates, with crowds of residents gathering around many of the stationed troops to chant “the army and the people are one hand.”
Bishop Moussa, head of the Youth Bishopric, released a brief statement on Wednesday thanking the army and the police for their role in helping to reassure the populace.
Shehab Wagih, spokesperson of the Free Egyptians Party, meanwhile emphasised to Daily News Egypt that the army’s main role is to protect national security. “We understand the intervention of the army, as we are in an intense situation where our security might be threatened,” Wagih added.
The spokesperson of the armed forces refused to issue any statements regarding the events, saying: “It is a sensitive situation.”
The deployment came after remarks by Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi in speech Sunday that while the military has avoided entering the political arena, its responsibility towards the populace “necessitate intervention to protect the country from slipping into an uncontrollable conflict.”
Opposition groups are planning for mass rallies on 30 June calling for early presidential elections, while the president’s supporters have called for a sit-in on 28 June. Al-Sisi called on all political fractions to reach consensus and real reconciliation to protect Egypt and its people.
Additional reporting by Hassan Ghonema