UPDATE 5: Three-way commemoration of Egypt's revolution anniversary; 29 dead in clashes

Ahram Online, MENA, Saturday 25 Jan 2014

Thousands take to streets to celebrate Jan 25 revolution despite fears of terrorist attacks; Police disperse Brotherhood protests and Way of Revolution demonstrations; at least 29 dead, 300 arrested; attack on police camp in Suez

Tahrir Square
Left: Supporters of the government celebrate in Tahrir Square, Right: Clashes between anti-government protesters and police in downtown Cairo (Photo: Mai Shaheen and al-Ahram)

While hundreds of thousands are celebrating the day and cheer for the army around the country, death toll in clashes on the third anniversary of 25 January revolution has risen to 29, Egypt's health ministry said. 

Supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi locked horns with police forces as well as locals across Egypt, erupting sporadic gunfights and clashes.  

In downtown Cairo several hundred metres away from Tahrir Square, security dispersed protesters chanting against both military rule and against Brotherhood.

Clashes between anti-government protesters and police in downtown Cairo (Photo: Mai Shaheen)

By the late afternoon hours, the Way of the Revolution Front, an anti-military, anti-Muslim Brotherhood coalition group that participated in Saturday's demonstrations, has urged its members to end their protests following clashes with security forces.

The 6 April Youth Movement (Democratic Front) has announced that one of its members, Sayed Wizza, died from a bullet wound after police attacked a march from the Journalists' Syndicate in downtown Cairo.

The march of secular and independent groups, opposed to both the Muslim Brotherhood and the military, had left from the press syndicate and began to march to nearby Tahrir Square when they were met by pro-military supporters, resulting in clashes. Police arrived shortly after and dispersed both camps with birdshot and teargas.

Secular demos attacked

Earlier in the afternoon, police fired tear gas and birdshot to disperse two separate marches heading from Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque to Tahrir Square on the third anniversary of the 25 January Revolution, according to an Ahram Online reporter on the scene.

Egypt police fire teargas at separate Way of Revolution Front, Muslim Brotherhood marches from Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque to Tahrir Square (Photo: Injy)

A pro-Muslim Brotherhood march and a distinct Way of the Revolution Front march gathered separately in front of the mosque in preparations for marches to Tahrir Square.

A protest at the Journalists' Syndicate in downtown Cairo has been dispersed by security forces firing birdshot and heavy teargas. Armoured vehicles reportedly drove through the demonstration to disperse the crowd.

Demonstrators at the press syndicate had chanted against the military and the Muslim Brotherhood. They had then marched from the building with intentions of reaching Tahrir Square, a few blocks away, but were stopped mid-way at Talaat Harb Square, where they clashed with supporters of General Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi coming up from the pro-military celebrations in Tahrir.

Pro-government forces celebrate in Tahrir

Meanwhile, celebrations of the third anniversary of the revolution by supporters of the interim government started Saturday amid tight security after the day opened with a limited explosion increasing fears of further violence after four bombs exploded Friday.

Tens of thousands have already flocked to Tahrir Square to celebrate the anniversary heeding a call by the interim government and political groups.

25 jan Mai
Supporters of Egypt's government cheer with national flags (Photo: Mai Shaheen)

The Wafd Party, the Free Egyptians Party, along with Tamarod, the group that spearheaded the protests leading to the ouster of Islamist president Morsi, called on Egyptians to join the festivities Saturday in Tahrir Square.

Citizens entering the iconic square are being searched with metal detectors. Military helicopters are also hovering over the area.

An Egyptian policewoman checks the veil of a visitor at the entrance of Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the 2011 uprising, in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 (Photo: AP)

Egyptian flags are being waved around Tahrir, with some holding posters of army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi. 

A stage has been set up from the night before.

Many of Egypt's other main squares gradually filled up with celebrating demonstrators. Crowds waving Egyptian flags and carrying pictures of General El-Sisi have already gathered in Alexandria's Sidi Gaber as well as in Sohag, Fayoum and Aswan in Upper Egypt.

In Alexandria, supporters of army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi gathered in Sidi Gaber and Al-Qaed Ibrahim squares demanding the army chief runs for presidency.

Pro-Morsi rallies violently dispersed

Supporters of ousted president Morsi organised protests across the nation against what they describe as a 'coup' which removed him from power last July.

اIn Cairo’s Mataria Square, clashes went for many hours with 2000 supporters of Morsi trying to stage a sit-in, according to eyewitnesses. Ensuing confrontation with the police reportedly resulted in a number deaths.

Supporters of Morsi have already marched in several parts of Greater Cairo -- the satellite city 6 October, where 10 protesters were arrested, Giza and Haram west of Cairo, where they were dispersed by security forces, and in Faisal, where they were dispersed by pro-military citizens.

In Alexandria, Brotherhood supporters also organised rallies demanding the reinstatement of ousted President Morsi. The protesters chanted that "Morsi is a president for millions" and declared that they were "eager for martyrdom."

Police general Nasser El-Abd, a high-level police officer in Alexandria, announced that security forces had arrested tens of pro-Brotherhood protesters wielding Molotov cocktails and birdshot rifles. 

Security forces used tear gas to disperse pro-Morsi rallies in Sidi Bishr, Asafra, and Borg Al-Arab.Two other pro-Morsi marches in western Cairo districts were also dispersed – one in front of Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque in Mohandiseen and another in Giza's Haram, where security officials fired teargas and rubber bullets.

Several other deadly clashes also erupted in Mohandiseen throughout the day.

The protests on Saturday had been announced earlier this week by supporters of the ousted Islamist president, including the pro-Morsi National Alliance to Support Legitimacy (NASL), which has deemed the run-up to Egypt's third anniversary of the 25 January 2011 revolution as "The Revolutionary Challenge Week."

The day has witnessed pro-Morsi demonstrations across the capital – in front of Al-Qudsi Mosque in the northern Ain Shams district, as well as in Al-Hay Al-Asher and Mostafa Nahas streets in Nasr City, both of which were halted by security forces.

Several protesters also gathered in the working-class district of Matariya in Cairo, chanting against the military and raising the four-fingered Rabaa sign, a symbol of the pro-Brotherhood Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in that was violently dispersed by the military last August.

In Ismailia, dozens of Brotherhood supporters were dispersed by security forces after organising rallies in the city.

In Assuit city not less than 15 pro-Brotherhood protesters, including several women, were arrested by security forces. Security sources told Al-Ahram Arabic that those arrested were holding banners displaying the yellow four-fingered Rabaa salute associated with supporters of the Brotherhood and ousted president Mohamed Morsi.

Several other protests in support of Morsi took place in other towns in the governorate of Assiut where protesters initiated several marches chanting for “a new revolution” and the fall of the "regime."

In Minya, Upper Egypt, a pro-Morsi march leaving from Omar Ibn Al-Khattab Mosque also chanted against “military rule.”

Security sources told Ahram Online that at least 300 people have been arrested in today's protests across Egypt.

Car bomb detonates at Suez police camp

An explosion at a Suez police camp in the late afternoon hours resulted from a car bomb and not an RPG, said General Abdel-Fattah Osman, Egypt's Deputy Interior Minister for Media Affairs.

General Hani Abdel-Latif, spokesperson for the ministry of interior, had previously reported that anti-government militants fired an RPG at the Central Security Forces (CSF) camp in Suez. 

Four were injured in the attack and transferred to Suez General Hospital, according to a source in Suez's ambulance authority who spoke with Ahram's Arabic news website.

According to eye witnesses, there have been ongoing clashes at the site between the militants and security forces around the camp using live ammunition. 

Tight security in capital

Earlier in the day, unknown militants fired birdshot at Tahrir Square in a drive-by shooting in the early hours of Saturday, injuring one before hurrying away from the area, Al-Ahram Arabic website reported.

Security forces closed off all roads leading to the Ministry of Defence in Abbasiya in anticipation of unrest, forcing vehicles and passersby to take alternate routes to reach their destinations. However, hundreds marched in the middle class district chanting slogans that reflect their support for the army and calling on its head, El-Sisi, to run for the presidency.

Main security directorates and police stations have also been cordoned off, with policemen stationed outside them.

The Rabaa Al-Adawiya crossroad, in Cairo's Nasr City district, where a six-week pro-Morsi vigil was held before the police forcefully dispersed it last August, was also sealed off.

In Ain Shams, where an explosion had taken place early Saturday, defiant demonstrations took the streets with many holding up pictures of El-Sisi.

The minor explosion left no casualties.

An official source told the state owned MENA news agency that an improvised explosive device was set off in front of a police training centre in Cairo's Ain Shams district. According to the source, some damage was done to the centre's perimeter fence.

The explosion came one day after a string of four explosions hit Cairo, killing six and injuring at least 80.

The four explosions targeted police institutions and checkpoints.

An Al-Qaeda-inspired group, Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis (Partisans of Jerusalem), claimed responsibility for the bombing of the Cairo Security Directorate. The group, which has claimed the deadliest militant attacks since former president Mohamed Morsi's ouster in July, warned Egyptians in an audio statement against taking to the streets Saturday.

The Muslim Brotherhood, labelled a terrorist organisation by Egypt's interim government, denied any ties with Friday's explosions.

Morsi supporters also took the streets Friday, clashing with security forces and opponents. Fifteen were reported killed in the violence witnessed in Cairo, Giza, Alexandria and Ismailia.

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