The State Department warned Americans on Thursday that protests planned in Egypt this weekend could turn into violent clashes — a stark reminder that the country remains unstable three months after its army ousted the president.
The U.S. Embassy in Cairo, in an alert to American citizens living and traveling in Egypt, said that the protests, expected to begin after noon prayers Friday and extend through Sunday, have been described as peaceful but “could spark confrontation.”
The alert said that the protesters could block bridges and major roads, and encouraged Americans to avoid the transit system, Tahrir Square and any other place where large crowds may gather.
Violence in Egypt since the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi, in July, was one reason the Obama administration decided to suspend hundreds of millions of dollars in American aid to Egypt.
Since August, hundreds of supporters of the Morsi-aligned Muslim Brotherhood have been killed in clashes with the military-backed regime that stepped in after Morsi was deposed.
On Sunday alone, dozens of people were killed in clashes between supporters and opponents of Morsi, who faces trial next month on charges of inciting and committing violence.
In addition, Islamist militants have begun staging attacks in and around major cities, including Cairo. The militants were already attacking Egyptian forces on the strategically important Sinai Peninsula.
Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that the American aid could be restored if the military regime proves that it can respect minority groups and human rights. He described the suspension of aid as a “recalibration” of the U.S.-Egyptian relationship.
Kerry said that the United States wants to see an Egyptian constitution that results in free, fair elections.
“In our conversations with the Egyptians, they insist to us that that is exactly the roadmap that they are on, that that is what they intend to achieve,” Kerry told reporters during a visit to Malaysia.
The government of Egypt responded with defiance, calling the American decision to withhold aid strange and said that it was fighting a “war against terrorism.”
“The decision was wrong,” Badr Abdelatty, a spokesman for the Egyptian foreign ministry, told Radio FM, according to Reuters. “Egypt will not surrender to American pressure and is continuing its path towards democracy as set by the roadmap.”