Egypt’s security forces disperse small protests against Sisi

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Egyptian security forces fired tear gas and arrested scores of people to disperse small protests against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Monday, deterring what activists had hoped would be large demonstrations, witnesses and security sources said.

Earlier this month, thousands angered by Sisi's decision to hand over two islands to Saudi Arabia called for his government to fall in the largest demonstration since the former army general took office in 2014.

Security forces moved on Monday to prevent a repeat scenario, blocking roads in Cairo leading to a central meeting point and dispersing a march in the Dokki neighbourhood with tear gas, a witness said.

Protesters said the marches were a sign of growing dissent.

"There is a different kind of momentum that wasn't there for the past two years," said activist Mona Seif, adding that the dispersal of protests was reminiscent of the early days of the 2011 uprising which toppled President Hosni Mubarak.

"People were waving at us from the balcony," she said.

Videos and pictures posted on social media showed teargas being used at a small protest drawing dozens in the Imbaba district. Some chanted "The people want the fall of the regime" - a slogan from the 2011 uprising.

Aircraft and helicopters circled over Cairo.

Police in recent days have arrested more than 90 people across eight governorates, according to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a Cairo-based human rights group.

On Monday, scores were arrested both in Cairo and outside of the capital, including six in the northern port city of Damietta and 12 in the Nile Delta industrial town of El-Mahalla El-Kubra, security sources said.

The Interior Ministry said it could not provide an immediate count for how many protesters had been detained.

The protests coincided with a national holiday celebrating the final Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai peninsula in 1982.

Amnesty International said in a statement on Tuesday it has received information from local activists that at least 238 people, including foreign nationals, activists and journalists, were arrested on 25 April across Egypt.

“The Egyptian authorities appear to have orchestrated a heavy-handed and ruthlessly efficient campaign to squash this protest before it even began. Mass arrests, road blocks and huge deployments of security forces made it impossible for peaceful demonstrations to take place,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty International’s interim Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, in a statement obtained by Al Arabiya English.

About 2000 Sisi supporters turned out for official celebrations at Abdeen Palace with families holding placards adorned with the president's face and the words "We trust you".

There are no signs that Sisi's rule is under immediate threat.