Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Thousands stage protests in Egypt

Supporters of Egypt's ousted president Mohammed Morsi hold a protest in a park in front of Cairo University (AP)

Thousands of protesters calling for the return to power of Egypt's ousted Islamist president have demonstrated in Cairo as the military warned it will crack down on any violence.

Youth activists who launched the mass protests that led to Mohammed Morsi's toppling by the military also planned a demonstration in Cairo's Tahrir Square, raising fears of a fresh round of clashes in the capital.

The Interior Minister, in charge of police, cautioned supporters of the ousted president from going to Tahrir Square. Mohammed Ibrahim also warned both sides against committing acts of violence.

The marches come just days after a new interim Cabinet was sworn-in that includes women, Christians and members of a liberal coalition opposed to Mr Morsi, but no Islamists as the country finds itself deeply polarised over the July 3 military coup that was supported by millions who accused Egypt's first democratically elected leader of abusing his power and giving too much influence to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Waving Egyptian flags and holding up pictures of Mr Morsi, marching protesters chanted slogans against army chief Gen Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi. "El-Sissi is a traitor!" the crowds chanted. "Morsi is our president!"

Mainly Islamist supporters of Mr Morsi have been holding a sit-in in front of a mosque in eastern Cairo since Mr Morsi was removed and the numbers swelled as his supporters answered a Brotherhood call to join the rallies on Friday in an event dubbed "breaking the coup". Police and military troops and armoured vehicles were deployed heavily in Cairo around security and military installations, court houses, and the capital's entrances, security officials said.

Small incidents of violence broke out in Cairo, according to the security officials. Pro-Morsi supporters and opponents began shouting at one another after traditional Friday prayers in the main Al-Azhar Mosque and police detained six Islamist protesters for throwing rocks. Separately, a man was stabbed when a crowd of the deposed president's supporters questioned his identity and found out he was a policeman in civilian clothing.

Fears of greater violence were high after clashes between the two sides and authorities in recent days left more than 60 people dead, including 51 Islamist protesters who were killed when the military opened fire on demonstrators under disputed circumstances outside the Republic Guard forces club. The Islamists have accused the troops of gunning down the protesters, while the military said it was provoked by armed Morsi supporters who were trying to storm a military building.

Earlier, Egypt's interim president, Adly Mansour, pledged to protect his country against those who seek chaos and violence in the aftermath of the popularly backed military coup. He gave his first address to the nation ahead of the protests.

In his eight-minute, pre-recorded message broadcast on state television, Mr Mansour said Egypt was going through a "decisive period" in its history where some wanted to drag the country towards the "unknown" and cause chaos. He said: "They want this period to be an introduction to violence and blood, and we want it to establish for the concept of protecting lives and human rights."

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