CAIRO: Nearly 50 people were killed in weekend clashes that erupted during rival rallies marking the anniversary of Egypt’s 2011 that toppled Hosni Mubarak, the health ministry said on Sunday.
Three years after Egyptians rose up to demand the overthrow of Mubarak, thousands of demonstrators in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Saturday chanted slogans backing another military man, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, as police clashed with Islamists and activists elsewhere.
Forty-nine people were killed, the ministry said, in 24 hours of fighting across Egypt as police and supporters of the military-installed government clashed with Islamist backers of president Mohamed Morsi, who was deposed in July after a single turbulent year in power.
Egypt was already on edge after four bombs exploded in Cairo on Friday, including a massive blast outside police headquarters. The attacks, which were claimed by a Sinai-based extremist group, killed six people.
Hours before Saturday’s rallies, a small bomb outside a police training center in north Cairo wounded one person, while another 16 were hurt when a car bomb exploded beside a police base in the canal city of Suez.
Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, an al-Qaeda-inspired group, claimed Friday’s bombings, all of which targeted police, and urged “Muslims” to stay away from police buildings.
Security forces across Cairo moved quickly to disperse scattered pro-Morsi protests while welcoming demonstrators to sanctioned commemorations.
In the Muhandiseen district, police fired tear gas and birdshot at anti-government protesters outside a mosque, scattering them into side streets.
Gunfire could be heard in the Alf Maskan neighborhood, where some of Saturday’s deadliest fighting took place, a witness said.
Of the 49 people killed, most died in Cairo and its suburbs, and others in Alexandria and Minya, the health ministry said on Sunday, adding 247 people were injured.
The interior ministry said 1,079 “rioters” were arrested.
One of the dead in Cairo was a member of the April 6 movement, which spearheaded the uprising against Mubarak and had also opposed Morsi.
Police, who have killed hundreds of Islamists in street clashes since Morsi’s overthrow, have vowed to halt all such demonstrations.