CAIRO – With the military beefing up security, tens of thousands took to the streets Friday in a determined push for the return to power of Egypt’s ousted Islamist leader, while Mohammed Morsi’s opponents staged rival rallies, raising fears of a fresh round of clashes.
In the only reported deadly violence Friday, angry residents of the delta city of Mansoura clashed with pro-Morsi protesters. Gunshots and birdshots were fired, though it was unclear by whom, security officials said.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said a 25-year-old woman and a young girl were killed in the late night violence.
A local rights activist who was at the hospital, Abdullah el-Nekeity, said three women were killed, including a 17-year-old girl, and 13 other people were injured.
El-Nekeity said a mob attacked the pro-Morsi demonstrators with dogs, gunfire birdshots and knives. The marchers fled, some hiding in residences until the police arrived, el-Nekeity said.
A statement from Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood party said those killed were supporters of the ousted government and blamed hired thugs for shooting them.
The army warned it wouldn’t tolerate any violence and sent fighter jets screaming over the capital and helicopters hovering over the marches.
Publicizing their protests for days, Morsi’s supporters vowed Friday would be decisive in their campaign to try to reverse the military coup that removed the country’s first democratically elected president after a year in office, following massive protests against him.
Unlike other demonstrations held in the evening after breaking the daylong Ramadan fast, the pro-Morsi rallies took place throughout the day. Organized by the Muslim Brotherhood party and dubbed “Breaking the Coup,” they included marches in Cairo’s streets, outside military installations and in other cities, including Alexandria and several Nile Delta provinces.
Friday’s rallies coincided with the 10th day of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which Egyptians celebrate as the day their armed forces crossed the Suez Canal in the 1973 war with Israel. The surprise assault led to the return of the Sinai Peninsula, which had been occupied by Israel.
Waving Egyptian flags and pictures of the ousted leader, they chanted slogans against army chief Gen. Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi. “El-Sissi is a traitor!” they shouted. “Morsi is our president!”
Organizers played Morsi’s old speeches, referring to him as the nation’s leader and the supreme commander of the armed forces.
Meanwhile, several thousand anti-Morsi protesters gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and outside two presidential palaces to celebrate their gains. “The people and the army and the police together against terrorism,” declared a banner stung across a stage set up at the presidential palace.