Cars pass through Tahrir Square Friday morning (Photo: Mai Shaheen)
Streets in Egypt's capital Cairo were calm ahead of protests planned Friday by Salafist groups calling for an "Islamic revolution," despite the killing of two army officers earlier in the day.
Although empty streets on a Friday – the first day of the country's weekend holiday – are conventional, an added hush seems present after over a week of warnings by the media that the day will spiral into violence.
Extra security measures taken by Egypt's police and army are in place. The military has taken control of specific buildings in downtown Cairo, including the state broadcaster and central bank, located in the downtown area close to Tahrir Square.
Tahrir Square – usually barricaded in anticipation of mass protests since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last year – is open to traffic, as well as Giza's Mostafa Mahmoud Square in the Mohandiseen district.
Army forces, however, are stationed in both squares, a scene absent for months now.
Despite the elevated measures, Egypt's Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab said on Thursday that Friday "will be a normal day," highlighting his conviction that security forces are up to the challenge of preserving the country's security.
His statement was compounded by state news assuring that trains will operate normally on Friday, many of which had been halted for months due to unrest following Morsi's ouster.
All the lines of Cairo's underground metro are also operating.
Reports coming in from several governorates said no sign of protests have been witnessed as of yet.
The protests are expected to kick off following weekly Friday midday prayers, but attacks on Egyptian army personnel started early.
Two army officers were killed – one in Cairo and another in the Qalioubiya district north of the capital – when they were shot by unknown assailants.
Since Morsi's ouster, attacks against army and police forces in Sinai have spiked, but the violence has made its way to Egypt's Nile valley, with tens of officers and conscripts killed in Cairo, Nile Delta governorates and Upper Egypt.
Friday's protests have been endorsed by the formerly ruling Muslim Brotherhood, but a few Islamist groups have rejected the calls for demonstrations, some of them previous allies of the Brotherhood.