UPDATE 3: Low turnout for Muslim Brotherhood rallies across Egypt

Ahram Online , Friday 23 Aug 2013

Supporters of deposed president Morsi once again take to streets in Cairo and several provinces to protest what they describe as ‘military coup’; turnout particularly low in wake of Islamist leadership arrests

Egyptian soldiers stand guard as they close one of the entrances to Tahrir Square in Cairo August 23, 2013. (Photo: Reuters)

Marches were launched in several parts of Egypt on Friday with thousands taking to the streets protesting the removal of ousted president Mohamed Morsi and the killing of hundreds of his supporters during a security crackdown last week.  

However, the turnout has been the lowest in comparison to previous mass protests on Fridays since 30 June.

Number of protesters dwindled following the arrest of several Muslim Brotherhood leading figures the past week. Most important of whom was Mohamed Badie, the Supreme Guide of the Islamist group, from which Morsi hails.

Demonstrations marched through the Cairo and Giza districts of Ramsis, Mohandeseen, Kerdassa, Helwan, Haram and Shubra. The Governorates of Aswan, Suez, Minya and Fayoum also witnessed protests.

Protesters chanted "[Defence Minister Abdel-Fattah] El-Sisi is a traitor" and "It is not about the Brotherhood…it’s a war against Islam."

"El-Sisi is a traitor…Morsi is my president" and "The media are liars…peacefulness in not terrorism," were also among the chants.

Morsi was toppled on 3 July as part of the armed forces’ roadmap for Egypt, which was enforced following mass nationwide protests against the former elected president.

Demonstrators carried pictures of Morsi and of those slain during last week's clashes with police .

Widely carried were also the yellow banners with the now well-known "Rabaa hand" showing a four-finger salute symbolizing the violent crackdown on the Rabaa Al-Adawiya Mosque last week, which left more than 700 killed and thousands injured.

Egyptian army and police forces are tightening security at several prominent protest sites in Cairo. 

The National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, an Islamist coalition against the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi led by the Muslim Brotherhood, announced that it would stage 28 marches across greater Cairo on Friday departing from major mosques.

The demonstrations, dubbed the "Friday of Martyrs," aim to condemn the fall of Brotherhood supporters in recent violence following the police's deadly crackdown on the Islamist sit-ins last week, leaving over 700 dead. 

Army and police forces have spread over the vicinity of Rabaa El-Adawiya Mosque in Nasr City, where the alliance held its main sit-in for six weeks before the dispersal. They have closed off several nearby streets.

They also increased their presence at the nearby defence ministry and the Ittihadeya presidential palace in Heliopolis district, a few kilometres away from Rabaa El-Adawiya. 

In addition, army forces have closed off all entrances to Tahrir Square in central Cairo with tanks and barbed wire. 

Tahrir has been a site for anti-Brotherhood demonstrations and currently hosts several tents of protesters who opted to defend the area in case Morsi supporters attempt to take over the iconic square. 

Meanwhile, the army also closed off Gam'et El-Dowal El-Arabiya Street, a main route in Mohandiseen district which intersects with the square where Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque is located.

In Nile Delta, violence broke out in several cities.

At least one Morsi loyalist, named Mohamed Abdullah, was killed in Tanta city, in the Nile Delta Gharbiya governorate. The scuffles also left at least 25 injured.

Immediately after dispersing the sit-ins last week, Islamist protesters attempted to set up a new sit-in in front of the mosque, but fierce clashes broke out with security forces and the crowd was quickly dispersed.

Three days after the dispersals, in response to violent clashes that followed nationwide, the alliance announced it would hold a week of rallies in protest. However, the turn out across the past week has been relatively small in numbers. 

Fourteen governorates, including Cairo, Giza and Alexandria, are under a state-imposed curfew from seven o'clock in the evening to six o'clock in the morning. A one-month long state of emergency was also announced nationwide last week.

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