Clashes mark Egypt anniversary

Fri, Jan 25, 2013, 00:00

Five people were shot dead in the Egyptian city of Suez during nationwide protests against president Mohamed Mursi today, the second anniversary of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.

One of the dead was a member of the security forces, medics said. Another 280 civilians and 55 security personnel were injured, officials said, in demonstrations fuelled by anger at the president and his Islamist allies in the Muslim Brotherhood.

Thousands of opponents of president Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood allies massed in Cairo's Tahrir Square - the cradle of the revolt against Mubarak - to rekindle the demands of a revolution they say has been hijacked by Islamists.

Street battles erupted in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and Port Said. Arsonists attacked at least two state-owned buildings as symbols of government were targeted. An office used by the Muslim Brotherhood's political party was also torched.

There were conflicting accounts of the lethal shooting in Suez. Some witnesses said security forces had opened fire in response to gunfire from masked men.

The January 25th anniversary laid bare the divide between the Islamists and their secular enemies. This schism is hindering Mr Morsi's efforts to revive an economy in crisis and reverse a plunge in Egypt's currency by enticing back investors and tourists.

"Our revolution is continuing. We reject the domination of any party over this state. We say no to the Brotherhood state," Hamdeen Sabahy, a popular leftist leader, told Reuters.

The Brotherhood decided against mobilising for the anniversary, wary of the scope for more conflict after December's violence that was stoked by Mr Morsi's decision to fast-track an Islamist-tinged constitution rejected by his opponents.

The Brotherhood denies accusations that it is seeking to dominate Egypt, labelling them a smear campaign by its rivals.

Before dawn, police battled protesters who threw petrol bombs and firecrackers as they tried to approach a wall blocking access to government buildings near Tahrir Square.

Clouds of tear gas filled the air. At one point, riot police used one of the incendiaries thrown at them to set ablaze at least two tents erected by youths, a Reuters witness said.

Skirmishes between stone-throwing youths and the police continued in streets around the square into the day. Ambulances ferried away a steady stream of casualties.

Protesters echoed the chants of 2011's historic 18-day uprising. "The people want to bring down the regime," they chanted. "Leave! Leave! Leave!" chanted others as they marched towards the square.

"We are not here to celebrate but to force those in power to submit to the will of the people. Egypt now must never be like Egypt during Mubarak's rule," said Mohamed Fahmy, an activist.

There were similar scenes in Suez and Alexandria, where protesters and riot police clashed near local government offices. Black smoke billowed from tyres set ablaze by youths.

In Cairo, police fired tear gas to disperse a few dozen protesters trying to remove barbed-wire barriers protecting the presidential palace, witnesses said. A few masked men got as far as the gates before they were
beaten back.

Tear gas was also fired at protesters who tried to remove metal barriers outside the state television building.

Outside Cairo, protesters broke into the offices of provincial governors in Ismailia and Kafr el-Sheikh in the Nile Delta. A local government building was torched in the Nile Delta city of al-Mahalla al-Kubra.


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