The anniversary of the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak laid bare Egypt’s rifts, with nationwide clashes yesterday leaving 49 dead amid calls by thousands for the defense chief to make a presidential run.
Building on a weekend of bloodshed and tear gas, assailants killed three security personnel in Sinai today, the military said on its spokesman’s Facebook page. The attacks -- the latest in a string of shootings and bombings blamed mostly on the Muslim Brotherhood and allied Islamists -- raised to about 70 the number of people killed over the past 72 hours.
The violence spotlights the challenges confronting the government as it looks to restore elected rule after the July ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi set in motion protests by the Muslim Brotherhood and a crackdown on the group by the military. Yesterday’s rallies offered the clearest signal yet of the mushrooming public support for al-Seesi among the Brotherhood’s opponents.
“We’re here to support the army and police against terrorism and ask al-Seesi to run for presidency,” said Doaa Sediq, 45, a telecommunications industry worker. “If I see a Brotherhood member here I don’t what I will do to him, we can’t stand them anymore,” she said of the Islamist group that fielded Mursi for office and which has since been officially designated a terrorist organization.
In other parts of the capital, as well as nationwide, Brotherhood supporters clashed with security forces to demand Mursi’s reinstatement.
“The priceless blood being shed by the bloody fascist coup will always be a fire that eats the oppressors and lights the revolution’s road,” the group said in an e-mailed statement.
Security forces arrested 1,079 Brotherhood supporters yesterday and confiscated weapons including firebombs, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. Officials had deployed over 260,000 security personnel, the state-run Middle East News Agency said.
The violence marring anti-government rallies contrasted with the largely festive mood in Tahrir Square yesterday and offered yet another example of the unrest that has undermined efforts to revive an economy stuck in the worst slowdown in two decades. Grievances over jobs and prices that helped fuel the 2011 demonstrations are still widespread.
Some political activists, who oppose both the military and the Brotherhood, say they see little to celebrate three years after Mubarak’s removal.
“We want to get the revolution back,” said Mohamed Taman, an anti-government protester, who wants to see Mursi return although he says he isn’t a member of the Brotherhood. “Everyone’s message today is that the revolution is continuing.”
The military-backed government has repeatedly argued that Mursi was ousted in a revolution, not a coup, and that it is committed to charting a democratic course. As evidence of the support it has for the transition, it points to the approval of a new constitution passed in a referendum earlier this month. Presidential and parliamentary elections are slated for later this year.
Today’s attacks on security forces follow a series of explosions over the weekend, including a car bombing that struck Cairo’s main police headquarters on Jan. 24. That blast killed four and wounded dozens while three other blasts left two more dead. The militant Islamist group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis claimed responsibility and said Egyptians celebrating yesterday would also be targets for attacks, according to the state-run Ahram Gate website.
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