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Egyptian protesters run away as security forces use tear gas, near Tahrir Square in Cairo, yesterday.
CAIRO: Egyptian protesters stormed a regional government headquarters and clashed with police as mass rallies shook the country on the second anniversary of an uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak and ushered in Islamic rule.
Five people were killed during clashes between police and protesters in the canal city of Suez, state television reported. Earlier, doctors at the Suez Hospital said that four people had died from live bullets during the clashes.
The health ministry also said that the clashes have left 252 people injured across Egypt. Planned demonstrations turned violent as protesters attacked a Muslim Brotherhood headquarters and police repelled surging rallies with tear gas.
The security services fired the gas canisters in various locations across Cairo, including outside the presidential palace, at protesters who blocked off main roads in their tens of thousands.
The unrest came on the second anniversary of a revolution that brought Islamist President Mohammed Mursi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, to power, and a day after clashes between protesters and police on the eve of the occasion.
After the seismic political changes of 2011, the Arab world’s most populous nation is struggling to find a balance between a leadership that boasts the legitimacy of the ballot box and opponents who accuse it of betraying the goals of the revolution.
Egypt is also in the throes of an economic crisis as foreign investment and tourism revenues dwindle, the Egyptian pound stands at its lowest level against the dollar and a budget deficit shows no sign of recovery.
Protesters stormed the governorate headquarters in the canal city of Ismailiya, entering the building, setting fire to a room used by security services and looting furniture and equipment.
Demonstrators had earlier set fire to the Brotherhood headquarters in Ismailiya and the apartment housing the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) offices.
In the Mediterranean city of Damietta, protesters surrounded a governorate building and blocked traffic in the area while in the Nile Delta city of Kafr el-Sheikh they stormed the courtyard of the building and clashed with police.
In Cairo, police fired tear gas at protesters outside the presidential palace, where violent clashes between Mursi’s allies and foes in December killed several people.
Protesters outside the state television building blocked traffic as marches of tens of thousands of people swarmed the capital.
Army and police forces were deployed to protect the vital building which houses the information ministry and state television and radio. Protesters set fire to tyres and blocked traffic in both directions on the 6 October Bridge, a vital flyover that connects east and west Cairo. Second city Alexandria was rocked by similar violence between demonstrators and security forces, witnesses said, reporting clashes in two neighbourhoods between police and protesters who burned tyres.
“The smoke is black, there is a lot of gas. There are people on the ground because they can’t breathe,” one of the protesters, only identified as Rasha, said.
The emergency services gave an initial toll of 100 injured in the violence. Thousands of Egyptians marched early yesterday across the country, notably converging on Tahrir Square in Cairo — the focal point of the 2011 revolution — a day after clashes between police and protesters who attempted to pull down a cement wall blocking off the square.
In one street off Tahrir dozens of youths threw rocks over the wall erected by security forces as police responded with tear gas.
In the square itself, thousands of protesters chanted slogans against the powerful Muslim Brotherhood from which President Mohammed Mursi hails. Opponents accuse Mursi, the country’s first freely elected president, of failing to reform post-revolution Egypt while consolidating power in Brotherhood hands. “The people want the downfall of the regime!” they chanted. “The performance of Mursi and his government is not good enough. If we give him the opportunity, the country will face ruin,” said shop assistant Mostafa Abdallah, 23. The Muslim Brotherhood did not officially call its own rallies, instead marking the second anniversary by launching a charitable and social initiative dubbed “Together we will build Egypt.”
Mursi urged Egyptians to spend the anniversary in a “peaceful and civilised way,” in a Thursday speech marking Prophet Muhammed’s (peace be upon him) birthday.