Clashes between protesters supporting ousted president Mohamed Morsi and local residents in several locations around Egypt led to the deaths of at least two pro-Morsi protesters on Friday, as thousands of Islamists took to the streets in another sign of defiance.
Supporters of Morsi, who was ousted by the military amid nationwide protests in early July, held demonstrations around the country against what they describe as "a military coup" despite an ongoing crackdown on pro-Morsi protests and a wave of arrests of members of his Muslim Brotherhood.
In the Nile Delta city of Damietta, Muslim Brotherhood member Ibrahim Selim was killed after a pro-Morsi rally was attacked, Al-Ahram Arabic news website reported.
Another Morsi supporter was killed in Egypt’s second largest city, Alexandria, during clashes between locals and anti-Brotherhood protesters.
Twenty-three Brotherhood supporters were arrested following the clashes in the coastal city.
Although demonstrations were held in the capital, in several Nile Delta cities, in Ismailia on the Suez Canal and in Upper Egypt’s Assiut, numbers seemed to be significantly lower than previous weeks.
According to political analyst Amr El-Shobaky, the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies are constrained by the arrests of key leaders.
“The Brotherhood's strong organisational skills are contingent on blind obedience to their leaders. With their leadership behind bars they cannot deploy their supporters effectively,” El-Shobaky told Ahram Online.
Those behind bars include Morsi himself, held incommunicado since his ouster, the group’s spiritual leader Mohamed Badie, and second-in-command Khairat El-Shater. All are facing related charges of inciting violence.
The crackdown comes after a violent dispersal of pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo on 14 August which left hundreds of protesters dead and sparked days of intense violence nationwide.
Since then, intermittent clashes have taken place between Morsi supporters, anti-Brotherhood civilians and security forces. A number of policemen and members of the security forces have also been killed in the clashes.
Thursday blast leaves one dead
On Thursday, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim survived a failed assassination attempt when a bomb exploded in Cairo's Nasr City, injuring dozens. One person died from their injuries on Friday, the ministry stated.
The ministry also suggested in a statement on Friday that new information has been discovered that will help identify the culprits behind the attack.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, which was condemned by the Muslim Brotherhood. Since Morsi’s ouster there have been repeated attacks on security checkpoints and personnel, particularly in Sinai, although the Brotherhood has denied any links with the violence, which has killed dozens of policemen.
For the first time in over a month, modest rallies took place in several governorates in support of Egypt’s military. On 26 July, huge demonstrations took place in response to public calls by armed forces chief General Abdel Fattah El-Sisi for the Egyptian people to give the army a “mandate to fight terrorism.” On Friday, there were several small pro-military demonstrations, including one in the suburb of Maadi in Cairo.
Crackdown on activists
Several activists called for a protest in front of the prosecutor-general’s office in downtown Cairo on Saturday to demand the release of labour lawyer and leading member of the Revolutionary Socialists, Haytham Mohamadein.
Mohamadein, who was arrested at a military checkpoint close to Suez on Thursday, was given an extra four days’ detention on Friday. The charges against him are as yet unclear.
He was not the only non-Islamist to be arrested; Ahmed Abu-Deraa, a Sinai-based reporter working for Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm, was also detained on Wednesday.
Quoting an unnamed army official, the Associated Press said that Abu-Deraa faces a military investigation for allegedly publishing wrong information about an ongoing security operation in the Sinai Peninsula.
“We are before a tyrannical authority with interests very far from the revolution,” rights lawyer Gamal Eid was quoted as saying by AP.
“While the Brotherhood's leaders and supporters are on the top of the security's list of arrests, they are not at its end.”