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Five killed in Egypt on Rabaa anniversary

The killlings came amid unrest marking a year after a pro-Brotherhood protest was brutally broken up by security forces

Published: Updated:

Four protesters and a policeman were shot dead in Cairo on Thursday, security sources said, on the day marking one year after government forces killed hundreds of demonstrators in the worst bloodshed in Egypt’s recent history.

The health ministry said four protesters were killed and 13 others wounded during clashes with security forces. Five people were injured in skirmishes outside the capital.

Earlier in the day, gunmen on a motorcycle shot a police officer in the same district.

A top security official in Cairo said 30 members of the Brotherhood were arrested on Thursday for rioting.

Small, hit-and-run demonstrations are the most the group can muster after a fierce security crackdown has seen many thousands arrested and hundreds sentenced to death.

The Brotherhood, once Egypt’s most organized political movement, was declared a terrorist organization last year, and its political wing was banned last week.

Polarizing violence

Violence has polarized Egyptians since the army overthrew elected Islamist President Mohammad Mursi last year following mass protests against his rule.

Hundreds of supporters of Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood have been killed and thousands arrested since he was ousted, with the largest number of deaths occurring one year ago on Thursday, when security forces stormed two protest camps in Cairo.

Militant attacks have also increased since Mursi was toppled, with Sinai Peninsula-based militants killing soldiers and police in an insurgency the government has struggled to quell.

Human Rights Watch released a lengthy report this week documenting the dispersal, saying security forces likely committed crimes against humanity and comparing the incident to China’s Tiananmen Square massacre.

The rights group called for a U.N. investigation into the role of President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi - who was military chief at the time - and other officials in the killings.

Authorities have blamed the Brotherhood for a string of attacks on security forces and have branded it a terrorist organization.

The group denies the allegations, insisting it is committed to using protests and other peaceful means to bring about the reinstatement of Mursi, who has been jailed along with virtually the entire top leadership of the Brotherhood.

Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi, whose cabinet took the decision of dispersing Rabaa and Nahda sit-ins staged by Mursi supporters in August last year, told Egyptian newspaper al-Masry al-Youm that “the dispersal was a hard and sad day for Egypt because of the many victims who were killed.”

The former interim premier said that his cabinet had faced a tough choice.

"The continuity of the sit-ins threatened security and lives of people, whereas its dispersal was going to lead to deaths," he said, adding that he supported a investigation into the happenings of that day.

“Whoever made a mistake should be put on trial. It’s an Egyptian, not a western request… we welcome an independent investigation by human rights organizations over the incidents, circumstances and the aftermath,” he added.