Anti-government protesters and members of the Muslim Brotherhood throw stones and glass during clashes with supporters of Egypt’s army and police on Ramsis street, which leads to Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo.
CAIRO: At least 29 people were killed in clashes in Egypt yesterday during rival rallies on the anniversary of the 2011 revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak, underscoring the country’s violent polarisation.
Three years after Egyptians rose up to demand the overthrow of Mubarak, thousands of demonstrators in Cairo’s Tahrir Square chanted slogans backing another military man, General Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, as police clashed with Islamists and activists elsewhere.
The 29 people were killed in fighting across the country when police and supporters of the military-installed government clashed with Islamist backers of president Mohammed Mursi, who was deposed in July after a single turbulent year in power.
Egypt was already on edge after four bombs exploded in Cairo on Friday, including a massive blast outside police headquarters. The attacks, which were claimed by a Sinai-based extremist group, killed six people.
Hours before yesterday’s rallies, a small bomb outside a police training centre in north Cairo wounded one person, and another 16 were killed when a car bomb exploded next to a police base in the canal city of Suez, according to the health ministry.
Ansar Beit Al Maqdis, an Al Qaeda-inspired group, claimed Friday’s bombings, all of which targeted police, and urged Egyptian “Muslims” to stay away from police buildings.
Security forces deployed across Cairo moved quickly to disperse scattered pro-Mursi protests while welcoming demonstrators to commemorations called by authorities.
In Cairo’s Muhandiseen district, police fired tear gas and birdshot at anti-government protesters shortly after they gathered outside a mosque.
Of the 29 people killed, 26 died in Cairo and its suburbs, health ministry spokesman Ahmed Kamel said. Another 168 people were wounded in the clashes, and police said 725 suspected protesters were arrested.
One of the dead in Cairo was a member of the April 6 movement, which spearheaded the uprising against Mubarak and had also opposed Mursi, a member of the group said.
Police, who have killed hundreds of Islamist protesters in street clashes since Mursi’s overthrow, have vowed to halt all such demonstrations.
But they encouraged Egyptians to turn out in support of the government, and some politicians called for rallies to back Sisi, the general who overthrew Mursi and whose popularity has skyrocketed among Egyptians craving stability after three years of turmoil.
Mubarak, who ruled for three decades, was forced to step down on February 11, 2011 after 18 days of demonstrations that left some 850 people dead, ending his three-decade rule.
The military took power until Mursi’s election in June 2012, but then toppled him a year later after millions took to the streets demanding his resignation, accusing him of betraying the “revolution” that toppled Mubarak.
In Tahrir yesterday, tanks guarded the entrances to the square as demonstrators waved Egyptian flags and carried posters of Sisi.
“The people demand the execution of the Brotherhood,” demonstrators chanted, as several took their pictures with police officers, soldiers and tanks.
The Brotherhood, which renounced violence decades ago and won a series of elections following Mubarak’s overthrow, condemned Friday’s bomb blasts, as they have previous attacks on the police and army.