|The military council faced its most serious challenge last week when 12 people died in the Cairo suburb of Imbaba [AFP]
Egypt's interim ruling military council has vowed to use all means to crack down on what it called "deviant groups" threatening stability and security.
"The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces warns this deviant group ... that it will use all its resources to confront and completely destroy this phenomenon as soon as possible," the council said in a statement on Friday.
The announcement follows widespread complaints that the military, which took over after Hosni Mubarak was forced from power by pro-democracy unrest in February, has been slow to deal with a breakdown in security in which remnants of the old regime, Islamists and other groups have sewn fear and strife in Egypt.
Egypt has witnessed a sharp rise in attacks on police stations, hospitals and houses of worship, sometimes in broad daylight, since the autocratic Mubarak stepped down.
The military council faced its most serious challenge last week when 12 people died in sectarian strife in the Cairo suburb of Imbaba, which many Egyptians blamed on conservative Islamists, known as Salafists, and former Mubarak loyalists.
The statement said Egypt's economic woes and security problems were engineered by enemies "inside and outside the country". It singled out attacks on police stations and those spreading rumours to stir sectarian strife.
The statement said severe punishments were being mooted against criminals, including the first death penalty since the February revolution. It gave no details.
Hundreds of mostly Christian protesters have been camping outside Egypt's main state television building in central Cairo, demanding that those behind the Imbaba attack, in which a church was burned down, be brought to justice.
The military council earlier said it would review legal procedures used to try young activists detained after Mubarak's fall and free some of them, a move that would meet some of the demands made by anti-corruption activists.
Many demonstrators have accused the army of arresting anti-corruption protesters in March and April when they defied a military curfew and camped out in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the centre of the protests that toppled Mubarak and a major thoroughfare in the traffic-choked capital.
"The Egyptian Supreme Military Council will review the legal procedures of the trials of all the revolution's youths, especially those arrested in March and April," the council said in a statement posted on its Facebook page. "All honest youths of the revolution will immediately be freed."
The army has enjoyed broad support since taking control on February 11 after Mubarak stepped down, but there have been increasing complaints that while some protesters were still being held, it was foot-dragging in bringing Mubarak to trial.
Mubarak's arrest was ordered in April but he remains in a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.