Egyptian security officials say police have been questioning residents and searching apartments at over 5,000 homes in central Cairo as a “precautionary measure” to prevent street protests on the upcoming anniversary of the Jan. 25 Arab Spring uprising.
One senior security official said on Thursday that the ten-day search campaign was based on surveillance and intelligence gathered over months and focusing on pro-democracy activists inside and outside the country, including foreigners.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters, say that they are targeting movements that aim to polarize society and mobilize the masses against the government. They say they are very concerned and will not allow the anniversary to be marked by protests.
An Egyptian affiliate of the Islamic State group claimed responsibility on Thursday for an attack on a checkpoint in the country’s volatile Sinai Peninsula that killed five policemen.
Three conscripts were also also wounded when gunmen opened fire at the checkpoint in the town of El-Arish.
The attack took place at midnight on Wednesday in the city of el-Arish and also wounded three policemen, the Interior Ministry said.
The assault came as security forces nationwide braced themselves for the Jan. 25 anniversary of the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Officials, including President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, have voiced concern over attempts to mark the anniversary with new protests and security forces have arrested a number of activists accused of planning demonstrations.
Egypt has been hit by a wave of suicide bombings and militant attacks that intensified after the military’s ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013. Over the past year, most of these were claimed by IS.
The last major incident took place in December, when suicide bombers struck a hotel in Sinai housing judges monitoring the parliamentary elections. Two judges were killed.