Egyptian officials reduce curfew hours
CAIRO — Egypt's government on Saturday shortened a widely imposed evening curfew, signaling that authorities sense turmoil is waning after unrest over the president's ouster threatened to destabilize the country this month.
The cabinet's decision to reduce the curfew by two hours came as Egypt's interim prime minister vowed that his government's priority is restoring security.
Egypt experienced one of the deadliest bouts of violence in recent days since its Arab Spring began in 2011. Nationwide clashes and attacks killed more than 1,000 people after the security forces cleared two Cairo sit-ins held by supporters of toppled President Mohamed Morsy, overthrown in a popularly supported July 3 military coup.
Since the unrest spiked, much of Egypt has been under a military-imposed nighttime curfew. Responding to citizens' demands, the government said in a statement Saturday that the 11-hour-long curfew would be in place daily for just nine hours. However, the full curfew would remain in place for Fridays, the first day of the weekend in Egypt and when last week's protests were incredibly fierce.
The easing of the curfew was announced a day after calls for protests by Morsy's Muslim Brotherhood group largely fizzled.
The announcement Saturday was made as many were rushing to try to make it home before curfew hours began. The curfew especially has choked Cairo's bustling nightlife and the revenue of many businesses, hotels and restaurants.
In recent days, Cairo, a metropolis of some 18 million people, began to regain a sense of normalcy. The capital, however, remains under a state of emergency that gives security forces broad powers to arrest.
Security forces have used those powers to go after the Brotherhood's top and midlevel figures, including the group's supreme leader, Mohammed Badie. Most are accused of inciting violence. Authorities have alleged that Morsy supporters are committing acts of terrorism and point to a string of attacks against churches and government buildings.
Morsy supporters deny their protests are violent, accusing authorities of smearing their movement and trying to cripple the once-powerful party.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi told reporters that he will not accept people feeling unsafe.
“We are sorry for the number of injured ... and we are all extremely sad for each drop of blood,” el-Beblawi said. “But if the price is that people don't feel secure ... we won't accept that.”
Despite the heavy toll the violence has taken on key pillars of revenue such as tourism in Egypt, the prime minister said his country could rely on “unprecedented support from Arab countries” that are “ready to help with a lot more” than what they are offering. Several oil-rich Arab gulf countries, longtime critics of Morsy's Brotherhood, pledged $12 billion in aid to help the interim government after the Islamist president's ouster.