Fierce clashes in Egypt leave dozens dead

Violence flares during marches to celebrate Army day

Egyptian security forces and civilians detain a supporter of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi near Ramsis Square in Cairo yesterday. Photograph: Sabry Khaled, El-Shorouk Newspaper/AP Photo

Egyptian security forces and civilians detain a supporter of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi near Ramsis Square in Cairo yesterday. Photograph: Sabry Khaled, El-Shorouk Newspaper/AP Photo

Mon, Oct 7, 2013, 01:00




Clashes between the Egyptian security services and opponents of the July coup killed 28 people and injured scores yesterday on an important anniversary for the country.

The worst violence was in Cairo, where army and police fired tear gas and live ammunition to block at least three marches by thousands of Islamists, many supportive of ousted president Mohamed Morsi. The protesters were determined to converge on Tahrir Square where a rival demonstration celebrating Army Day was being held. Hundreds of protesters were arrested.

Black fumes from burning tyres rose in the air and Islamists fled down side streets chased by plain-clothed enforcers and angry citizens. Meanwhile, a huge crowd of flag-waving army supporters filled Tahrir Square to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the day the Egyptian army crossed the Suez Canal and destroyed Israeli fortifications in the Sinai.

Inside the square, which had been sealed off by armoured personnel carriers and barbed wire, a festive atmosphere reigned, with nationalist songs blaring from loudspeakers, folk dancers performing on an open-air stage and army jets circling above.

On the periphery, police pushed back Islamist marchers trying to breach their lines.

Barely a kilometre away from the square in Doqqi, thousands of protesters held up signs denouncing Gen Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, the defence minister who ousted Mr Morsi, and posters of the symbolic four fingers denoting the anti-coup movement. They formed a long rowdy procession but were stopped within several hundred metres of a key bridge leading to the city centre by a volley of teargas.

“Allah akbar!”, (“God is great“), the young men chanted as they beat a hasty retreat.

“We are here to ask the government to give us back our rights,” said Fatima Alaa, a 23-year-old sociology student and member of Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Provocation
Many worried the Brotherhood supporters’ call for mass protests in Tahrir Square on the same day as a cherished national celebration amounted to a provocation that would generate more violence.

One television station ran a caption under its footage accusing the Brotherhood of trying to “ruin” the celebrations.

But the Brotherhood’s political party defended the decision. “Tahrir is for everybody,” said Tarek Morsi, spokesman for the foreign policy committee of the Freedom and Justice party. “It is the army dividing the Egyptian people. They attack people in Alexandria, Sinai and Suez without provocation. They do not need an excuse to do so in Cairo.”

Violence was also reported in the port city of Suez where three people were injured, one of them by gunfire, during street fighting between supporters and opponents of Mr Morsi.

In the southern city of Aswan, police were reported to have fired tear gas and arrested more than 15 pro-Morsi supporters because they tried to “storm” a square where Army Day celebrations were taking place.

At least four people were killed on Friday in clashes between Mr Morsi’s supporters and the security services. –(Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2013)