Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi chant slogans against army, background, and hold placards (Photo: AP)
Egypt's Islamists have called for fresh demos on Friday, as tensions escalate ahead of rival rallies planned for Sunday to commemorate Egypt's 1973 war against Israel.
The National Alliance to Support Legitimacy – a coalition in support of deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi – called on its followers to rally on Friday against what they call a 'coup' against Egypt's first democratically elected president.
The Alliance also urged demonstrators to congregate in Cairo's Tahrir Square – the flashpoint of anti-Morsi protests and the cradle of the 2011 revolution – on 6 October, defying Egypt's army and its proponents.
Cairo's major squares have been fenced off to protesters since the violent raid on two major pro-Morsi sit-ins by security forces on 14 August. The army has tightened security measures in the capital, erecting barricades and increasing its presence.
A small group of Morsi loyalists briefly protested in Tahrir Square on Tuesday, for the first time since the army removed Morsi from office in July. Clashes with shop owners and passerbys shortly ensued, after which the police moved in to disperse the crowd.
"The true army leaders are those who shouldered the burden during tough times of war ... and pointed their weapons at the real enemy on the borders," read a Thursday statement by the pro-Morsi grouping. "History will show that this generation of Egypt's army was the first to carry weapons against its own people."
The Tamarod (Rebel) movement – the grassroots group behind the mass protests that culminated in Morsi's ouster – has called for rallies to celebrate the 6 October victory in venues including Tahrir Square, heightening fears of a violent showdown between rival factions.
Since Morsi's ouster, state forces have launched a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood group from which the former president hails. Hundreds of Morsi supporters have been killed, and the group's upper and mid-echelon have faced arrest.
A Cairo court has also banned the organisation's activities and ordered its assets seized, in what is considered the latest attempt to neutralise the Islamist group.
Sunday will mark the fortieth anniversary of Egypt's 1973 war with Israel. The army traditionally celebrates the day with military performances and flyovers.
During a security seminar on Tuesday, army chief Abdel Fattah El-Sisi called for a quick transition to democracy via a roadmap he brokered following Morsi's overthrow.
The country's transitional plan calls for an amended constitution within the next month, with parliamentary and presidential elections to follow.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton – now in Cairo – is holding talks with key members of Egypt's interim administration as well as Islamist leaders in a bid to forge reconciliation between the two groups.
The EU envoy is expected to present a report on Egypt in two weeks, according to Egypt's constitution-drafting body head Amr Moussa.
This is Ashton's third visit to Egypt since Morsi's removal. The top diplomat has deplored violence against supporters of the toppled president, yet has stopped short of calling his removal a coup.