The Egyptian interior ministry is to send 100 armed units into major squares and streets in Cairo to tighten security following news of planned demonstrations in support of ousted president Mohamed Morsi this weekend. The news comes after a three-month-old curfew was lifted this week.
Each unit comprises of eight security personnel armed with live ammo, a security source told state news agency MENA on Thursday. Troops have sealed off the site of a former pro-Morsi protest camp in Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square in eastern Cairo, as well as central Tahrir Square, as fears highten that protests could spiral into violence on the first curfew-free Friday since August.
Fridays have traditionally been a major mobilisation day; Islamist protesters usually converge at mosques following the weekly afternoon prayers.
Egypt lifted a state of emergency and night-time curfews on Thursday, three months after the measures were imposed.
The state of emergency was enacted in mid-August, after a security crackdown on supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi left hundreds dead and led to nationwide unrest.
"The interior minister has given directives to take necessary legal [action] against breaking the law or disturbing public security to ensure security and stability in the streets," the source said.
Along with these stationed units, special security patrols will be carried out around all the capital's streets and major roads and in the neighouring Giza governorate, the official said.
An Egyptian court had ruled that the state of emergency be lifted on Tuesday, two days ahead of schedule. But the cabinet said it had to receive formal notification from the court first.
Islamist supporters of Morsi have called for fresh rallies on Friday against "reprisal justice," denouncing the trial of Morsi which started on 4 November.
The National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, a pro-Morsi grouping, blamed what it termed the "deep state" and stalwarts of former president Hosni Mubarak in the judiciary for the "farcical" trial.
A sustained crackdown by authorities on Islamists, including the arrest of thousands, has noticeably diminished their street presence.
Morsi, who was ousted by Egypt's army in July amid mass protests, is being tried over charges of incitement to murder. The toppled leader is being held at a heavily fortified prison near the Mediterranean city of Alexandria after spending months incommunicado. His trial was adjourned to 8 January.