FIVE people were shot dead in the Egyptian city of Suez during nationwide protests against President Mohamed Mursi yesterday, 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 Mursi 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 who have betrayed its goals.
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.
The January 25 anniversary laid bare the divide between the Islamists and their secular rivals.
This schism is hindering the efforts of Mursi, elected in June, to revive an economy in crisis and reverse a plunge in Egypt's currency by enticing back investors and tourists.
Inspired by the popular uprising in Tunisia, Egypt's revolution spurred further revolts across the Arab world. But the sense of common purpose that united Egyptians two years ago has given way to internal strife that had already triggered bloody street battles last month.
"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 said.
The Brotherhood decided against mobilising for the anniversary, wary of the scope for more conflict after December's violence, stoked by Mursi'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.
Meanwhile, 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.
News of the deaths capped a day of violence which started in the early hours. Before dawn in Cairo, police battled protesters who threw petrol bombs and firecrackers as they approached 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.
Skirmishes between stone-throwing youths and the police continued in streets around the square into the day.
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.