At least 29 killed in Egypt protest clashes

Rival political groups in the country are marking the 2011 uprising which ended in the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak

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At least 29 people were killed in Egypt in street violence Saturday, as Islamists and military supporters staged rival rallies on the anniversary of the 2011 uprising, the health ministry said.

Twenty-six of the dead were killed in clashes in Cairo and its suburbs, where Islamists and anti-government protesters fought with police and civilian opponents, ministry spokesman Ahmed Kamel told Agence France-Presse.

Police fired tear gas and birdshot at supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohammad Mursi and other anti-government activists as the country marked the third anniversary of the 2011 uprising that toppled former President Husni Mubarak.

Security sources told Al Arabiya News Channel that at least 33 Muslim Brotherhood supporters had been arrested in Cairo for attacking police forces.

Police broke up protests shortly after they began around a Cairo mosque, according to an AFP correspondent.

The protesters included both Islamist supporters of ousted Islamist Mursi and activists who accuse Egypt’s army of hijacking the government.

Security forces lobbed teargas and fired in the air to try to prevent demonstrators opposed to the government from reaching Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of the 2011 uprising that toppled the former air force commander.

Instead of commemorating Mubarak’s overthrow, a large number of Egyptians gathered in Tahrir to pledge their support for the army chief who ousted the country's first freely-elected president last year.

The chanting for General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi underscored the prevailing desire for a decisive military man they count on to end the political turmoil that has gripped Egypt since the 2011 Arab Spring revolution and crippled the economy.


Bombings on anniversary day

Earlier on Saturday, two bomb blasts were reported in Cairo on Saturday as Egyptians marked the third anniversary of their Jan. 25, 2011 uprising.

One bomb exploded near a police academy in Cairo, wounding one person, security sources said.

The blast was sparked by what was described as a small "incendiary bomb" lodged on the wall of the police training center and exploded without causing any casualties, a police official told Agence France-Presse. It was thrown by an assailant, who later escaped, the official added.

The second blast was reported in Hadaeq al-Quba, a Cairo district. Details of this attack remain unclear.

Later afternoon, a car bomb struck a police base in the Egyptian canal city of Suez on Saturday, wounding at least four people in an attack earlier blamed on a rocket.

The booby-trapped car exploded on a street next to the base, General Abdel Fattah Othman told the private ONTV television. An police spokesman had earlier said a rocket caused the explosion.

Following a string of deadly bomb attacks a day earlier, Egypt on Saturday woke up to the third anniversary of the uprising on a tense note.

Claiming responsibility

A series of bomb attacks in Cairo and clashes across the country on Friday left at least six people dead and wounded several others. In the most high-profile attack on Friday, a car bomb exploded at a security compound in central Cairo early in the morning and killed at least four people, including three policemen, security sources said.

Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, an al-Qaeda-inspired Egyptian insurgent group, claimed responsibility on Saturday for the four bombings the day before.

In its statement, the group called for Muslims to stay away fom police buildings.

Rival political groups in the country are set to mark the 2011 uprising which ended in the overthrow of President Husni Mubarak with planned protests across the country.

The Muslim Brotherhood has held regular protests since the military, led by Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, ousted Islamist President Mohammad Mursi last July.

The Anti-Coup Alliance, led by Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood, called in a statement for 18 days of protests beginning on Saturday, mirroring the 18 days of protests that led to Mubarak stepping down in 2011.

Relentless turmoil

The 2011 revolt raised hopes of a stable democracy in the Arab world's biggest nation. Instead, relentless political turmoil has hit investment and tourism hard in Egypt.

The government has said extra security measures are in place for Saturday.

"We have a plan to secure all of this for the anniversary of the Jan. 25 revolution," Egyptian Interior Minister Muhammad Ibrahim said.

He urged Egyptians not to be afraid to go to events marking the anniversary. However, earlier this week he warned supporters of the Brotherhood that any attempt to "disrupt" festivities will be dealt with "firmly."

Clashes in the capital and several other cities between Mursi supporters and security forces which killed 11 people also raised tensions in the biggest Arab nation.

(With AFP and Reuters)

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