Protester killed as Egypt marks anniversary of 2011 democratic revolt
Egypt on Sunday marked the fraught anniversary of its 2011 democratic revolt, with the death of a protester and a bomb blast in the capital underscoring tensions in the most populous Arab country.
Authorities tightened security in Cairo and other cities after Islamists called for protests against the government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the former army chief who ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
Police spread out in the capital and armoured vehicles were stationed around Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square — the epicentre of the January 2011 revolt against strongman Hosni Mubarak.
Sisi toppled Mubarak’s successor Morsi in July 2013 and has since led a crackdown on his supporters that has left hundreds dead.
Jihadist militants have in turn regularly targeted security forces, killing scores of policemen and soldiers.
Tensions have been running high ahead of the anniversary and officials said a protester was killed in clashes with police in Egypt’s second city Alexandria.
Police officials said the protester shot at police during an Islamist demonstration. Police returned fire and killed him, they said, adding that three protesters were wounded in the clash.
Jihadists also set off a bomb in Cairo that wounded two policemen.
The interior ministry said the bomb exploded in eastern Cairo’s Alf Maskan neighbourhood, where a similar blast on Friday wounded four policemen and a civilian.
Jihadist group Ajnad Misr (Soldiers of Egypt) claimed both blasts.
Two suspected militants were also killed while planting a bomb in the Nile Delta province of Baheira, the interior ministry said.
On Saturday a female demonstrator was killed in clashes with police during a rare leftwing protest in central Cairo.
Shaima al-Sabbagh, who friends said was 34 and the mother of a five-year-old boy, died of birdshot wounds, a health ministry spokesman said.
Fellow protesters said she was hit by birdshot when police fired to disperse the march. Prosecutors have launched a probe into her death.
An 18-year-old female protester was also killed on Friday in clashes in Alexandria.
-‘Funeral of the revolution’-
Police warned they would “decisively” confront protests on Sunday. Morsi’s supporters often hold small rallies that police quickly disperse.
Sporadic protests were reported in Cairo, with security officials saying that supporters of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood torched a police post in the capital.
The capital’s streets were largely deserted, although a few Sisi supporters gathered outside Tahrir Square waving Egyptian flags and chanting “Long Live Egypt!”
Plainclothes police were checking identity cards and stopping people from heading to the square.
Security was beefed up elsewhere in Cairo, with machinegun-wielding police deployed on key streets.
“This is the funeral of the (2011) revolution” Mamdouh Hamza, a prominent figure from the anti-Mubarak uprising, told an AFP correspondent in central Cairo.
“The murderer kills, and then joins the funeral procession. Nothing has improved or changed since Sisi took over.”
Activists, including those who spearheaded the anti-Mubarak revolt, have accused Sisi of reviving aspects of Mubarak’s autocratic rule.
Sisi and his supporters deny such allegations, pointing to his widespread popularity and support in Egypt for a firm hand in dealing with protests, which are seen as threatening economic recovery.
The revolt against Mubarak erupted on January 25, 2011, with hundreds of thousands of protesters taking to the streets across Egypt for 18 days until he stepped down.
The anti-Mubarak revolt was fuelled by police abuses and the corruption of the strongman’s three-decade rule, but the police have since regained popularity amid widespread yearning for stability.