Egyptian soldiers beat a protester during clashes near Cairo's Tahrir Square on December 16, 2011 after demonstrators threw petrol bombs and set fire to furniture in front of the nearby parliament. Image Credit: AFP

Cairo: Egyptian authorities Wednesday claimed to have detected a plot involving "foreign sides" to ignite a civil war in the country on the first anniversary of a revolution that toppled long-standing president Hosni Mubarak.

The state news agency Middle East quoted what it termed as an official source as saying that security agencies had uncovered contacts between unnamed local elements and foreign quarters to provoke clashes with the army on January 25, the day marking the first mass protests in the anti-Mubarak revolt earlier this year.

'Unsuspecting young people'

"The plot is based on involving unsuspecting young people and candidates who have failed in the parliamentary elections with the aim of scuttling democratisation process and bringing down the army and other state institutions," the unnamed source told MENA.

On Monday, a senior member of the military council, that has been ruling Egypt since Mubarak's toppling, claimed detecting a plot by "saboteurs" to burn the parliament.

Egypt has been gripped over the six past days by tensions resulting from clashes between military forces and anti-government protesters in central Cairo. Fourteen people were killed and more than 800 injured in the clashes, according to the Ministry of Health.

The violence has brought the military rulers under heavy criticism among fresh calls for them to hand over power to a civilian administration by February instead of July as they promised.

Amr Moussa, a potential president candidate, has expressed support for the suggestion made by some activists that the presidential election be he held on January 25 instead of late June.


"Egypt is experiencing a very bad state of chaos," said Moussa, a former chief of the Arab League. "It is important that the crisis should be handled in a way that would head off reaching catastrophic results," he added.

His warning was made as thousands of anti-military protesters continued Wednesday to picket in Tahrir Square in central Cairo after five days of clashes with the military and security forces. The soldiers were holed up behind concrete barricades in nearby streets as no major incidents of violence.

Some 30 political groups have said they would organize on Friday a mass protest against the military forces' use of "excessive violence" against demonstrators, mainly against women.

"You have been exposed when you stripped naked our girls in the streets," said Karima Al Hefnawi, a prominent activist. She was referring to brutal violence by army soldiers against female protesters in Cairo this week.


"You are liars and must go," she told a rally in Cairo on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a low voter turnout was reported in the runoffs of the second round in Egypt's parliamentary election, the first since Mubarak's ouster.

The bulk of the seats at stake in the two-day runoffs are being contested by Islamists, who secured major gains in the first stage of the polls in late November.

The final round of the election is scheduled for January 3