At least 29 people were killed amid worsening violence as Egyptians staged rallies to mark the third anniversary of the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak.
The Health Ministry said yesterday’s deaths were in Cairo, Giza, Alexandria and Minya provinces, without providing further details. At least 167 were wounded, the ministry said.
Security forces also used tear gas against supporters of deposed Islamist President Mohamed Mursi and other protesters in Cairo and elsewhere, after explosions and clashes killed at least 21 people on Jan. 24. Armored vehicles guarded the entrances to Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the 2011 revolt, as people streamed in, many holding up photos of Defense Minister Abdelfatah al-Seesi, who ousted Mursi in July.
“We are here to protect Egypt,” 50-year-old El-Sayed Attiya said near the square. “We want al-Seesi to run for president because he’s the one who protected Egypt. We want to see the end of the Muslim Brotherhood because it has ruined and destroyed the country,” he said of the Islamist group that fielded Mursi for office.
Al-Seesi is facing increasing calls by his supporters to run for president after leading the harshest crackdown against the Brotherhood in decades, even as security forces struggle with a surge in militant attacks since Mursi’s ouster. The violence risks undermining efforts to revive an economy stuck in the worst slowdown in two decades.
Sixteen people were injured in an explosion near a security camp in the province of Suez yesterday, the health ministry said. A bomb also exploded near a police training center in Cairo, while a second device in a car was defused, according to Ahram online. There were no deaths.
A car bomb Jan. 24 at the Cairo police headquarters killed four people and wounded dozens, and three other explosions around the city 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.
Clashes between Brotherhood supporters and police also resulted in 15 other deaths on Jan. 24, according to the Health Ministry.
Highlighting the polarization that has intensified since Mursi’s removal, the violence marring anti-government rallies contrasted with a largely festive mood in Tahrir Square yesterday. Many swayed, clapped or flashed victory signs as pro-military and national songs echoed through the plaza. Others posed for photos with police and troops in the area.
“The people want the execution of the Brotherhood,” they yelled and chanted slogans urging al-Seesi to run for president.
The anniversary comes as many of the political activists, who opposed both the military and the Brotherhood, say they see little to celebrate three years after Mubarak’s removal. Some of the activists who led the uprising are in jail on charges they say are politically motivated.
“The current regime is against the revolution and the Brotherhood squandered it,” Osama Mashhour, an activist, said downtown as he took part in a demonstration against both the military and the Islamist group.
The Brotherhood has urged its followers to mark the anniversary with renewed protests against the ouster of Mursi, who is on trial along with many of the group’s senior leaders.
“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 a statement.
The violence exposes divisions that emerged after Mubarak’s fall and have deepened since the military’s intervention in July. The army-backed government that replaced Mursi says it is restoring democracy, while opponents and human rights groups say a new police state is emerging.
“Today we want to get the revolution back,” said Mohamed Taman, an anti-government protester who wants to see Mursi return. “Everyone’s message today is that the revolution is continuing. If the authorities don’t get this message then they are stupid.”
Amnesty International said that Egypt has seen “state violence on an unprecedented scale” since the army overthrew Mursi. The government says it’s the target of violence, pointing to the wave of attacks, which were initially concentrated in the Sinai peninsula and have spread to urban centers including Cairo.
The government has blamed the Brotherhood for attacks, and designated it a terrorist organization, charges the group denies. The Brotherhood says it’s committed to peaceful protests to overturn what it calls the coup against Mursi.
About 260,000 police backed by armored vehicles are being deployed for the anniversary, according to the official Middle East News Agency.
The unrest since Mubarak’s toppling has left Egypt’s economy growing at the slowest pace in two decades, even though stocks and bonds have rebounded since the army removed Mursi. Grievances over jobs and prices that helped fuel the 2011 demonstrations are still widespread.
Government officials say a referendum this month, in which about 98 percent of voters approved a new constitution, is the first step back to democracy. It’s due to be followed by presidential elections later this year.