13 killed in Egypt’s deadly clashes

January 04, 2014 - 2:42:23 am

Supporters of Egypt’s deposed president Mohamed Mursi run for cover from tear gas fired by riot police during clashes in the northeastern part of Cairo’s Nasr City district, yesterday.

CAIRO: At least 13 people were killed across Egypt yesterday as Islamist protesters clashed with police and civilian opponents, the health ministry said, raising its earlier toll of six dead.

Thousands of protesters backing deposed president Mohamed Mursi had rallied across the country before police moved in to disperse them, sparking clashes.

Four were killed in Cairo and the rest in other cities, the ministry said in a statement, without identifying whether the dead were protesters, police or bystanders.

A driverless bus careered down a Cairo street towards riot police, smashing into parked cars as the police scrambled to safety during a protest yesterday in defiance of a ban.

The protesters, who were responding a call to demonstrate by an alliance that backs ousted Islamist president Mohamed Mursi, had disengaged the handbrake on board the bus and turned the vehicle into a weapon.

Police in an armoured van managed to reverse out of harm’s way.

It was one of many defiant acts across Egypt yesterday as Mursi’s supporters rallied in spite of a ban on demonstrations a week after the military-installed government declared his Muslim Brotherhood movement a “terrorist organisation”.

“Egyptians don’t know fear,” said Houeida, a protester who came with her husband and four children, moments before the clashes erupted in the Cairo neighbourhood of Nasr City.

She brushed off the threat of a harsh prison term the Islamist protesters now face with the Brotherhood’s designation as a terrorist group.

The move signalled the interim government’s intent to crush the 85-year-old movement with a membership estimated in the hundreds of thousands, and an even larger support base.

The Brotherhood has organised almost daily protests since Mursi’s ouster by the military on July 3, following days of massive street protests demanding the Islamist’s resignation.

Since then, more than 1,000 people, mostly Islamists, have died in street clashes, and thousands have been imprisoned.

The crackdown, now bolstered by making Brotherhood membership punishable as a terrorist offence, has done little to intimidate the movement’s diehard supporters, however. “I’d rather die here, defending my rights, than die in my bed,” said Houeida, her hair covered by a dark blue hijab.

Around her protesters chant against the military coup that toppled Mursi and against General Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, the military chief who is widely expected to stand in presidential elections this year.

“I am already old, but I am protesting today for the future generations,” said her husband Alaa Aboul Ela.

“We lived more than 30 years under a dictatorship and I want to spare them this,” he said, referring the era of Hosni Mubarak, the strongman ousted in a popular uprising in 2011.

For 19-year-old Sarah, a young protester who covered her face with a niqab, “the wall of fear that was inside us is now broken.”

“Girls are not afraid anymore,” she said. The protesters in the march raised their hands in a four-finger salute, the symbol of a Cairo protest camp where hundreds were killed in clashes with police in August.

Yesterday, the police, who have vowed to immediately disperse Brotherhood protests, opened fire all of a sudden, sending volleys of tear gas streaking down on the demonstrators. Some of the protesters ran to the abandoned bus and disengaged its handbrake, sending it down the street at the panicked police.

Elsewhere in Cairo, in the southern suburb of Maadi, police fired tear gas and shotgun rounds at another rally. “Make them run like chicken!” one officer yelled.

An Egyptian journalist urged an officer, a member of the special forces, to fire live ammunition.

“No, this is exactly what they want,” he responded.

AFP

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