CAIRO: Four people including an Egyptian woman journalist were killed in Cairo yesterday as police clashed with Islamists protesting against ex-army chief Abdel Fattah Al Sisi’s presidency bid, a security official said.
The violence erupted in a deeply polarised Egypt as supporters of deposed president Mohamed Mursi took to the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and other cities to vent their anger at Sisi who overthrew the Islamist nine months ago.
Mayada Ashraf, who worked for the privately owned Al Dustour newspaper, was shot in the head while covering clashes in the northern neighbourhood of Ein Shams, the official said, adding that three more people were killed in the same violence and 10 wounded.
Four people were also wounded in clashes in the northern province of Damietta, health ministry official Khaled Al Khatib said.
In Cairo’s eastern neighbourhood of Madinat Nasr, students from Al Azhar Islamic university hurled Molotov cocktails and stones at riot police who fired tear gas to disperse them, security officials said.
Underlining Egypt’s deep polarisation, clashes also erupted between Mursi supporters and his opponents in the northern Cairo districts of Ein Shams and Matareya, the officials said.
Ten Mursi supporters were arrested in clashes with security forces in Damietta province, and 28 were arrested in the southern Minya province for carrying leaflets hostile to the military and the police, they added.
Demonstrators in the southern Cairo working class district of Helwan and in Fayum province, southwest of the capital, fired birdshot and police responded with tear gas, state news agency Mena reported.
Supporters of the widely popular presidential hopeful, who toppled Mursi after massive street protests against his turbulent one-year rule, also demonstrated to celebrate his candidacy.
Carrying Egyptian flags and portraits of Sisi, dozens marched in Alexandria and scores gathered in Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square, symbol of the 2011 uprising that toppled veteran president Hosni Mubarak.
Sisi, who was also defence minister and deputy prime minister, announced his resignation on Wednesday to enable him to stand in the election.
His candidacy is likely to further inflame Islamist protesters and worry secular activists who fear a return to rule by the military and the strong-arm tactics of the Mubarak era.
Sisi faces no serious competition in his bid for the presidency and is widely seen as the only leader able to restore order after more than three years of turmoil.
The electoral committee said in a statement it will hold a news conference on Sunday to announce the timetable of the presidential election, Mena reported.
The poll is scheduled to take place before June.
Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood has rejected Sisi’s candidacy outright and a coalition of his supporters had called Friday’s protests. “What we said nine months ago was confirmed and the mask fell off from the face of the coup leader... with the announcement of his candidacy to ‘the bloody presidency’,” it said in a statement on Thursday.
Sisi “broke the oath he made before the elected president Mohamed Mursi by toppling him and made the Egyptian army enter the political arena with him,” the coalition added.
Sisi is believed to be the real power behind interim president Adly Mansour, under whose watch police have killed hundreds of Islamist protesters and detained about 15,000 suspects since Mursi’s ouster.
The crackdown has caused international concern and outrage after 529 Mursi supporters were sentenced to death this week over deadly riots. For those who want an end to the violence that has scared off investors and tourists, Sisi’s military background is an asset.
The army is seen as the country’s most stable institution, and Sisi can count on further aid from friendly Gulf states that have pumped billions of dollars into Egypt since Mursi’s ouster.