Egypt police guard Brotherhood HQ after violent night

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Police were out in force on Saturday outside the headquarters of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood a day after more than 160 people were hurt in running street battles between Islamists and opposition protesters.

An AFP journalist reported a heavy police presence at the building in the Mokattam neighborhood, and the official MENA news agency cited a health ministry spokesman as saying more than 160 people were injured the night before.

Businesses in the area remained closed, and debris from the violence was visible everywhere.

“We have already cleared away four burnt buses and three cars,” Nasser Abdullah, an official charged with the clean-up, told AFP.

Hundreds of Brotherhood members, many of whom had been bussed in the previous day ahead of the opposition protest, were leaving the complex on Saturday.

Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, who has been in office since last June, is himself a product of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood.

Friday’s violence broke out after opposition activists marched to the building guarded by police and Brotherhood members. The two sides pelted each other with stones, emergency services chief Mohammed Soltan told MENA.

Shots were also heard, but there were no immediate reports of gunshot casualties.

Police used tear gas against the protesters before the clashes spilled over elsewhere in the normally calm Cairo neighborhood.

Protesters captured and beat three Brotherhood members and also smashed up an ambulance evacuating one injured Brotherhood supporter and detained him, an AFP correspondent said.

Al Arabiya correspondent in Cairo said an office branch of the Brotherhood in Cairo was torched and ransacked and that the Justice and Freedom Party (JFP) building in Alexandria was also looted. The party is the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Opposition activists had called for the protest a week after they battled with the Islamists near the same building in Cairo. The movement vowed on Thursday it would protect its headquarters and bused in hundreds of supporters.

The Brotherhood has seen about 30 of its offices across the country attacked in widespread protests against President Mohamed Mursi, the Islamists’ successful candidate in last June’s election.

In the Nile Delta city of Mahalla on Friday, protesters set fire to another of the Brotherhood offices, throwing petrol bombs at the building, the state news agency MENA reported.

The Brotherhood, well-organized despite decades of persecution under former strongman Hosni Mubarak and his predecessors, was the main winner of parliamentary and senate elections last year.

But its critics accuse it and Mursi of mirroring the tactics used by Mubarak against the opposition.

The Islamists clashed before with opposition activists, most notoriously in December when at least 11 people were killed in clashes outside the presidential palace after Mursi adopted extensive powers, since repealed.