Egypt’s military rulers said they would withdraw troops from streets where pro-democracy youth activists plan to hold mass protests on Friday to demand a swift transition to civilian rule.
The activists, who spearheaded the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak in February, have called for a “second revolution” against what they see as foot-dragging on reforms and trials of former officials for graft and abuse of power, Reuters reports.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) called in a Facebook message for protesters to exercise caution on Friday, saying there were “suspicious elements trying to take actions that would sow strife between Egypt’s people and the military”.
It said the army would therefore avoid locations of planned protests and would “rely on the youth of the great revolution to handle organisation and security”.
“The military’s role will be limited to securing important and vital sites, so as to prevent any attempt to manipulate the security of Egypt,” the message said.
Egyptians fearing social chaos accepted the army’s role in keeping order after Mubarak’s overthrow, but many now bemoan a worsening security situation and delays in bringing former officials accused of corruption to trial.
Activists say the military has tried hundreds of civilians in military courts and hindered peaceful protests by arresting activists and holding them without charge.
The military council on Thursday renewed a pledge to protect the right of assembly and freedom of expression.
“The right to peaceful protest is guaranteed for the sons of the great nation that has rewritten Egypt’s modern history through peaceful protest that inspired the world,” the military council said.
“The armed forces are of the people and for the people. The military has not and will not use force or fire one bullet on the people of this precious nation,” the message added.