CAIRO Egypt's public prosecutor urged the security forces and members of the public on Tuesday to seize members of a new black-clad group vehemently opposed to President Mohamed Mursi which has emerged among the vanguard of recent protests.
Egypt's army chief has warned political strife was pushing the state to the brink of collapse following a wave of protests in which 52 people have been killed in the last week. Mursi has imposed emergency rule in the Suez Canal cities of Port Said, Ismailia and Suez in an attempt to stem the violence.
Hundreds of apparent supporters of the Black Bloc Egypt group took part in the protests in Cairo, Alexandria and the Suez canal cities, often on the frontline of clashes with the police.
Little is known about the group whose first post on its Facebook page was dated January 21 this year, but it has swiftly garnered 29,000 online followers. Its slogan is "chaos against injustice" and it says it has one enemy only; the Muslim Brotherhood group from which Mursi hails.
The group's tactics appear to be inspired by Black Bloc protesters in Europe who, dressed in black and covering their faces, have formed a violent hardcore in anti-globalization demonstrations.
Residents of Ismailia said people dressed in black carried out an arson attack on the Brotherhood's headquarters in the city on Friday, but this could not be immediately verified.
Public Prosecutor Talaat Abdallah on Tuesday ordered police and army officers to arrest Black Bloc members and called on the public to "participate in arresting anyone suspected of belonging to the group and handing them over immediately to the nearest judicial officer," the state news agency MENA said.
The Public Prosecutor accused the Black Bloc of being an "organized group that participates in terrorist acts .... and (commits) crimes that affect national security," MENA said.
A security source said 170 black-clad youths have been arrested across Egypt since Saturday, but added that investigations had not yet verified whether all were members of the Black Bloc.
On its Facebook page, Egypt's Black Bloc said: "we do not seek to destroy any government or private buildings ... we are not against police, our battle is with the Brotherhood only."
(Reporting by Shaimaa Fayed; Editing by Jon Hemming)