Supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi defied continuing attempts by the Egyptian authorities to destroy the Muslim Brotherhood by staging a series of nationwide demonstrations yesterday – a move which triggered violent clashes between protesters and police.
Local media quoted an interior ministry spokesman saying at least four people had been killed in clashes in two districts of the city. All four were Brotherhood supporters, according to security sources.
Several confrontations erupted in Cairo, as members of the so-called Anti-Coup Alliance – a group of mainly Islamist forces led by the Brotherhood – attempted to march on Tahrir Square, the former revolutionary epicentre which is now cordoned off by barbed wire and phalanxes of police and troops.
Morsi supporters also held posters of the “four-fingered salute” – the new symbol of those supporting the deposed President and the Muslim Brotherhood – during a protest in front of soldiers near the Rabaa Al-Adawiya mosque.
The violence came just 48 hours before the annual celebrations on Sunday to mark the end of the October War, the 1973 conflict during which Egypt launched a daring operation to reclaim the Suez Canal and Sinai Peninsula from Israel’s occupying forces.
Despite its only partial success, the memory of the war is cherished in Egypt and various pro-government forces have called for mass rallies to mark its 40th anniversary.
But there are fears that the commemorations will be marred by further violence, as pro-Morsi protesters have vowed to attempt another march on Tahrir Square.
Today’s violence in Cairo erupted after protesters tried to encircle the black-clad riot police near the square. Screaming “Down with the murderer” and other chants against army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi – the man widely believed to be pulling the strings of the current administration – some of the protesters clashed with other civilians on the northern fringe of the square.
In Qasr el-Aini Street, one the main thoroughfares leading south from Tahrir, semi-automatic gunfire rang out through the side-streets after a few thousand pro-Morsi supporters were scattered by charging riot police. One man, lying motionless in the middle of the deserted road after one burst of gunfire, had to be rescued and carried away by two other protesters.
Today’s clashes pose a problem for Egypt’s authorities, who have failed to extinguish the forces still opposing the current political transition process.