At least 44 people were killed in clashes in Egypt on Sunday, the health ministry said, after supporters and opponents of the country’s deposed president Mohammed Morsi took to the streets for rival protests.
Forty people were killed in Cairo and four south of the capital, as another 246 people were wounded across Egypt, senior health ministry official Khaled al-Khatib told state news agency MENA.
The demonstrations began earlier in the day as thousands of supporters of the military-backed interim government thronged Cairo's symbolic Tahrir Square, waving Egyptian flags and brandishing posters of army chief General Abdel Fatah al Sisi. Al Sisi led the military coup that overthrew Morsi on July 3.
Morsi’s Islamist backers, however, staged their own counter protests, chanting anti-army slogans as they marched through the streets of the capital.
Clashes soon broke out, with police firing tear gas and birdshot to disperse the protesters.
The protests fell on the 40th anniversary of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, also known as the Yom Kippur War – a surprise attack against Israel that eventually led to the to the recovery of the Sinai Peninsula in a 1979 peace treaty. The war is celebrated each year in Egypt on October 6 as a national holiday.
Egypt has been engulfed in political turmoil since Hosni Mubarak was toppled during the 2011 Arab Spring, but the conflict between Islamists and their secular rivals took a particularly violent turn after Morsi's ousting on July 3.
Morsi, who came to power as Egypt's first freely elected president, has been held in custody ever since lost power. Another 2,000 Islamists, including several top leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, have also been detained over the past three months.
The army overthrew Morsi amid massive protests against his year-long rule, which critics say was marked by mismanagement and efforts to ensure Islamist domination of post-Mubarak Egypt.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)