independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Three killed in Egypt clashes

Masked Egyptian police move into position during clashes with supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi (AP)

Egyptian security forces firing water cannon and tear gas clashed across the country with hundreds of rock-throwing supporters of the ousted ex-president today and three people were killed, authorities say.

Another 200 were arrested, including women, as authorities tightened security measures in the capital after Mohammed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and its allies renewed calls for mass rallies.

Friday is the day of the week in Egypt in which protests are typically at their largest. The day's demonstrations follow an announcement by the authorities that they will use the Brotherhood's new designation as a terrorist organisation to levy harsh prison sentence on protesters, and poses the first test of whether that tactic will deter them.

In Cairo, riot police chased student protesters chanting against the military and the police at the Islamic Al-Azhar University. TV footage showed demonstrators hurling stones and setting fire to tree branches to defuse tear gas smoke.

The night before, one person was killed when similar clashes broke near the dormitory of the same university. Anti-Morsi civilians also joined the fray in the eastern district of Cairo, fighting against the protesters, according to Egypt's official news agency.

Clashes also erupted today in several other districts of the capital. Al-Jazeera Mubashir Misr TV showed footage of police vehicle on fire on a road linking Cairo with Giza.

An Associated Press cameraman in another middle class district, Alf Maskan, saw Islamist protesters hurling Molotov cocktails and fireworks at security forces while civilians, on the police side, hurled stones. The street was littered with rocks, shattered glass and black soot.

A security official says two riot troops of the Central Security Forces were seized by protesters after they were injured in the clashes and they were later released with residents' help.

In a statement, Egypt's Interior Ministry said a total of three people were killed. Three police vehicles sat on fire and 265 protesters including women arrested, it said.

Armoured vehicles had earlier closed main squares and city centres in Cairo and other major cities in preparation for expected rallies protesting at the labelling of the Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation. The announcement was meant to further cripple the group ahead of a key vote on draft constitution on January 14-15 seen by the interim government as a milestone in the transition plan.

After the declaration, security spokesman said any participants in Brotherhood rallies will be sentenced to five years in prison, and group leaders could be sentenced to death according to anti-terrorism laws.

Since Morsi was ousted in a military coup on July 3 after millions demonstrated demanding his removal, the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies have held constant protests demanding his reinstatement and denouncing the interim government installed by the military in his place. But their rallies have sharply decreased in numbers because of a heavy-handed crackdown on the group that put thousands in detention and killed hundreds during the violent disbanding of two protest camps in August.

Outside the capital, the city of Assiut 320 kilometres (200 miles) south of Cairo, a stronghold of Islamic groups, witnessed two small rallies which were quickly dispersed after pro-government civilians fired into the air to drive protesters away.

The terror label came after a suicide bombing Tuesday in a Nile Delta city that killed 16 and wounded 100, mostly policemen. A second blast took place yesterday in Cairo, hitting a bus and injuring passengers but leaving no major causalities.

The government accused the Brotherhood of being behind the bombing, as well as stepped-up attacks by Islamic militants since Morsi's ousting, a claim the group denies. An al Qaida-inspired group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, or the Champions of Jerusalem, claimed responsibility for Tuesday's suicide attack and vowed more.

AP

Press Association

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