Five dead as police clash with pro-Morsi protesters
With water cannons and tear gas, Egyptian riot police battled yesterday with hundreds of rock-throwing supporters of ousted ex-President Mohammed Morsi in clashes across the country that left five dead, according to officials.
Authorities meanwhile unveiled a new tactic to contain protests called by Mr Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood group and its allies, calling on large families to post armed men near likely sites of demonstrations.
Yesterday's demonstrations followed 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 posed the first test of whether it will deter them.
In at least seven southern provinces, security and local officials said authorities turned to armed civilians from anti-Islamist and pro-government families to provide support to security forces, help guard police stations and churches and confront pro-Morsi rallies.
One high-ranking Interior Ministry official said it is part of a bigger deal between the security apparatus and the big clans in the south, the most conservative part of Egypt, which has a strong tradition both of inter-family feuding and of Islamist militancy.
Families would hand over heavy weapons to the government but would be allowed to carry lighter ones when facing off with Islamists, and in return authorities would support candidates from those families in upcoming parliamentary elections.