Rising death toll in protests marking Egypt revolution anniversary
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Almost 50 Egyptian demonstrators were killed in clashes on Saturday, according to the state-run Al-Ahram news website, as Egypt marked the third anniversary of the revolt that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak.
Police fired live rounds into the air along with teargas and bird shot to disperse the thousands of people who had rallied in Cairo in support of the military authorities and General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the man who led the July 2013 coup against Mohammed Morsi.
Al-Sisi and Egypt's military deposed Morsi, the country’s first freely elected president and Mubarak’s successor, following weeks of protest against his Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government.
Security forces also cracked down on rival demonstrations by Islamist supporters of the ousted president and by secular activists critical of both camps.
Protesters were also killed in clashes in Minya and Alexandria, while a car bomb exploded near a police camp in the Egyptian city of Suez, followed by an exchange of gunfire, security sources said.
The public show of support for al-Sisi highlights the desire in Egypt for a decisive military leader to end the political crisis and economic turmoil that has gripped the country since the 2011 Arab Spring revolution that led to Mubarak’s downfall. Al-Sisi is widely seen as a strongman who can restore order and combat the militancy that has flourished amid the chaos.
The general is soon expected to announce his run for the presidency and will likely win by a landslide, with elections expected within the next six months.
Several leading politicians have indicated they would not run for president if al-Sisi does, highlighting his dominance and the barren political landscape that has prevailed since the 2011 revolution.
The most vocal critics of the new order – Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood – have been driven underground. The authorities have nevertheless launched a sweeping crackdown on the movement, arresting thousands of the Islamists, including virtually all of the Brotherhood's top leadership.
Popular anger with the Brotherhood grew throughout Morsi's divisive year in power, and many Egyptians have cheered on the crackdown amid a wave of militant nationalism.
Tensions have been on the rise since a wave of deadly bombings killed six people in Cairo on Friday. An al Qaeda-inspired group, based in the lawless Sinai Peninsula, claimed responsibility, according to the SITE monitoring organisation.
In another sign of the peristent unrest, a bomb exploded earlier on Saturday near a Cairo police academy, although the Interior Ministry said no one was injured in the blast.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)