At least five dead in protests across Egypt
Hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets in rival protests
Anti-Morsi protesters chant slogans during a mass protest to support the army in Cairo’s Tahrir Square yesterday. A banner stretched across an entrance to the square read: “The people, the source of all power, mandate the army and the police to purge terrorism” Photograph: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
Five people died in clashes in Alexandria and dozens were injured across Egypt as hundreds of thousands poured into streets and squares to support and oppose the removal and detention of President Mohamed Morsi.
Cairo’s Tahrir Square and adjacent streets filled with people carrying portraits of army chief Abdul Fattah el-Sisi, who had called upon people to mobilise in support of a military crackdown on unrest. More than 120 demonstrators have died in the unrest over the past three weeks.
“The people, the source of all power, mandate the army and the police to purge terrorism,” read a banner stretched across an entrance to the square, the cradle of the 2011 uprising.
Cheerful demonstrators, some accompanied by children, chanted against the Muslim Brotherhood, the deposed president’s political base, many carrying red cards bearing the word “Fawadnak” meaning “We authorise you”, indicating support for the army to tackle violence and terrorism.
The licence to act has replaced the injunction “Leave” directed at Mr Morsi on placards at mass rallies before the president was deposed.
In Heliopolis, at the Ittihadiya presidential palace, a second vast anti-Morsi gathering took part in a communal iftar – Ramadan breakfast – before speeches supporting the military from prominent figures and enjoying entertainment from musicians responding to the call to rally issued by Gen Sisi who comes from a Brotherhood family and was elevated to his position by Mr Morsi.
Some demonstrators compared the general to president Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Egyptian leader beloved by many, who assumed power after the fall of King Farouk in 1952.
At Rabaa al-Adawiya square in the Nasr City district of Cairo, thousands of newcomers swelling a 29-day vigil dubbed the “fall of the coup rally” were harangued by brotherhood figures and clerics calling for Mr Morsi’s reinstatement. They insisted he remains the country’s legitimately elected leader and was toppled by an illegal military coup.
The brotherhood has maintained a large encampment at the site by bussing in supporters from the countryside and provincial towns.
In Giza, at al-Nahda Square in front of Cairo University, people carried flags and placards demanding the reinstatement of Mr Morsi: “The people want the end of the coup.”
Police and troops were deployed heavily on the streets of the capital to provide security for the duelling demonstrations. Armoured vehicles were posted around Tahrir Square and at the presidential palace to prevent pro-Morsi marchers from reaching these sites as they had tried to do on several earlier occasions, prompting clashes.
Rock-throwing erupted between pro-Morsi marchers and residents of Cairo’s Shubra district, leaving 10 injured, while in the Mohandiseen district, at Sphinx Square, a small number of leftists and independents opposed to the rival rallies chanted: “Down with Morsi, down with el-Sisi.”
Helicopters flew low over demonstrations in the country’s major cities, tracking participants with the aim of communicating positions to ground troops to prevent clashes.
In Alexandria, troops and vehicles deployed to create a buffer zone between the two rallies were unable to prevent fighting in which five people were killed and 25 wounded.
In the port city of Damietta there were skirmishes involving the two camps.
Hundreds of pro- and anti-Morsi demonstrators turned out in Al-Arish, the main town in restive northern Sinai, where 23 members of the security forces and 10 civilians have been killed since Morsi was removed. In south Sinai, a favourite area with tourists, workers paraded with banners proclaiming “Together against terrorism” and “Crush them, el-Sisi,” referring to fundamentalist militants who have plagued the tourism sector.