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UPDATED: Pro-army rallies sweep Egypt governorates; Morsi supporters hold firm

Demonstrations in response to the military's call for protests against 'terrorism' take place in cities all over Egypt; rival rallies also held by supporters of Mohamed Morsi in a number of governorates

Ahram Online, MENA, Friday 26 Jul 2013
Alexandria
Clashes in Alexandria leave four dead, more than 100 injured (Photo: Al-Ahram)
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Protests are ongoing on Friday in a number of Egyptian governorates, some in support of the Egyptian military and its request for a popular “mandate” to fight “terrorism and violence,” and others to call for the reinstatement of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

Four people were killed on Friday, including a 14-year-old boy, in clashes in Alexandria between supporters and opponents of deposed president Mohamed Morsi, according to health ministry officials, while over 140 were injured.

The clashes reportedly broke out in Mahatet Al-Raml district in Egypt’s second-largest city after pro-military protesters who were marching against “terrorism” passed near a demonstration by supporters of Morsi at Al-Qaed Ibrahim Mosque.

According to Ahram’s Arabic news website, security forces fired teargas in the vicinity of the clashes to disperse protesters.

At Sidi Gaber station, around four kilometres from downtown Alexandria, hundreds of protesters have gathered holding pictures of army chief and defence minister Abdel Fattah El-Sisi , chanting “no to terrorism."

In Ismailia on the Suez Canal, a large march started in front of the governorate headquarters on Friday afternoon and moved through the city before dissipating, with a plan to re-gather after evening Taraweeh prayers at approximately 10pm for a march and demonstrations in support of the army.

The marchers chanted against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood and held pictures of El-Sisi. El-Sisi on Wednesday had called on Egyptians to take to the streets to give the army a “mandate” to confront “violence and terrorism.”

In Port Said, initial pro-military marches arrived at Shohada Square in the afternoon, with more planned following Taraweeh prayers.

In Suez, a major site of anti-regime protests during the January 25 revolution, the National Salvation Front (NSF) planned a number of marches to that city's Shohada Square in support of El-Sisi’s call. There was also a march from nearby rural areas into the city to support the protests.

According to an NSF Suez spokesperson, the famous Semsemeya folk songs of the Suez Canal region will be played from a podium in the square.

Thousands poured into Thawra Square in Mansoura, the capital city of Daqahliya governorate in the Nile Delta, in support of the military’s call. Police and popular committees are protecting the demonstrations, which started soon after Friday afternoon prayers.

Other marches arrived in the city from the surrounding villages and smaller cities to partake in a mass iftar, the meal which breaks the Ramadan fast at dusk.

In Damanhour, pro-military protesters gathered in Al-Saa Square, carrying police and army soldiers responsible for securing the protests on their shoulders and chanting in support of El-Sisi and against Morsi and the Brotherhood.

A pro-military demonstration in the northern city of Desuq in Kafr El-Sheikh governorate started after Friday afternoon prayers and toured various neighborhoods in the city, chanting "we mandate you", "all Egyptians mandate you", and also chanting for the police. A mass iftar was then held by protesters in Al-Ibrahimi Square.

The northern city of Damietta also saw thousands gathering in its main square, Horreya, to demonstrate against “terrorism.” Two podiums had been erected and were broadcasting patriotic songs, and an iftar was held in the square.

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In Menoufiya in the Delta, demonstrations on Friday afternoon took place at the main governorate building in response to El-Sisi’s call. Protesters were watched over by police and popular committees, and an iftar was held. 

In Sharqiya governorate, where Mohamed Morsi was born, large rallies were held on Friday. Tens of thousands joined a pro-Morsi protest in the city of Zagazig after Friday afternoon prayers, but then left for Cairo to join the pro-Morsi Rabaa Al-Adawiya sit-in.

Pro-military protesters held a joint iftar in the city to support El-Sisi’s call.

The gathering was secured by army and police making clashes unlikely. 

Restive Sinai also saw demonstrations. The north Sinai city of Beir Al-Abd witnessed thousands of citizens demonstrating around the central bus station in support of police and army, raising Egyptian flags and photos of El-Sisi. The capital of Sinai, Al-Arish, also saw a pro-military demonstration in the hundreds. In the south Sinai city of El-Tor a public iftar was served in front of the governorate building, with Christians joining Muslims for the meal, before the group started protesting and chanting pro-military slogans.

Reuters also reported that a separate pro-Morsi demonstration took place in Al-Arish on Friday afternoon.

In Beni Suef, south of Cairo, pro-military protests were held, organised by the anti-Morsi Rebel campaign and other anti-Morsi groups.

In upper Egypt, hundreds of protestors poured into Shohada Square in the city of Aswan. Two protests were present in the square on Friday evening, one pro-military and one pro-Morsi.

The two sides signed an agreement promising not to attack one another to avoid clashes. Popular committees carrying photos of El-Sisi were in place to protect protesters.

In the southern city of Assiut, thousands of protesters responding to El-Sisi’s call gathered in front of the governorate headquarters to hold an iftar. At sunset, church bells rang at the same time as the call for prayers, announcing the time for Muslims to break their day-long fast. Followers of Sufism also joined the protest, which was secured by police and the military.

Earlier in the day, five pro-Morsi marches were held in the city, demanding the reinstatement of the former president. Thousands continued the demonstration following the marches, chanting for Islam and against El-Sisi. The demonstrators stayed some distance away from the pro-military rally. 

The two camps are nearly equal in size but have so far avoided clashes.

In the southern city of Minya, a march by Morsi supporters distributed flyers to citizens on Friday afternoon asking them to avoid leaving their homes, saying that doing so implies they give the army licence to kill citizens. The march started in the south of the city and joined an ongoing pro-Morsi sit-in.

An Ahram correspondent in Minya said that as of 11:30pm, pro-Morsi rallies numbering in the thousands are still ongoing in the city, with many other supporters of the ousted president having gone to Cairo to join the sit-ins there. 

Pro-military protests are also ongoing in the city at the governorate headquarters and were estimated to number in the tens of thousands, secured by both army and police. 

The southern city of Sohag also witnessed early marches by pro-Morsi protesters, starting from Thaqafa Square, the largest of the city's squares where the protesters had been gathering since Thursday night. The demonstrations, led by the pro-Morsi National Alliance in Support of Legitimacy, have been circulating the city since the morning. 

Later in the day, the Rebel (Tamarod) campaign, which had called for the 30 June protests that instigated the ouster of Morsi, led marches consisting of hundreds in support of the army.

The resort town of Hurghada on the Red Sea also saw thousands of protestors take to the street in support of El-Sisi’s call. A number of tourists took photos of the protestors.

In Luxor, another key touristic town, Abul Haggag Square was full of thousands of protesters after iftar, chanting pro-army and pro-El-Sisi slogans.

Clashes erupted in the nearby village of Asfun between pro-military and pro-Morsi protests after a Brotherhood supporter fired shots in the air. No injuries were reported.

In Mansheya Street in downtown Luxor, clashes also erupted between pro-Morsi protestors and thugs wielding knives and other weapons. The thugs ransacked a number of shops during the fight until the police dispersed the crowds with teargas.

Small clashes also started between protestors pro-military and pro-Morsi groups, but they were quickly dispersed by police.

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