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Egypt: Islamist protest dwindles amid crackdown

Egyptian police have fired tear gas at dozens of Islamist protesters in a Cairo square while streets elsewhere remained largely empty. Earlier, gunmen had fired at a police station, killing an officer.

Egyptian authorities continued their clampdown on Islamist protesters on Friday by using tear gas at a Cairo square to disperse about 150 demonstrators. Key roads had been blocked off with barbed wire laid by the army.

Friday's marches called by the Muslim Brotherhood drew an estimated 5,000 supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi. But, they were markedly smaller than rallies in mid-August when 1,000 people, mostly Islamists, were killed during army intervention and ensuing violence around the country.

On Friday, police fired tear gas in Cairo's Sphinx Square, outside a mosque where Islamists were staging a rally, described by Associated Press and AFP news agency correspondents as otherwise peaceful.

Smaller protests were reported elsewhere in the country. Security forces also fired tear gas at 3,000 protestors in the Nile Delta city of Tanta. Brotherhood proponents and detractors reportedly clashed in the provincial city of Benha.

In the past, the Brotherhood had been able to mobilize tens of thousands of demonstrators.

Defiant despite arrests

The alliance led by the Brotherhood had again sent out messages - saying that army chief, General Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi "must go" - despite the interim government's detention of hundreds of Brotherhood members, including top leaders, over the past 12 days.

One of those arrested was Mohamed Beltagi, an Islamist politician, who made a televised statement, calling on Egyptians to join rallies against the military.

He was reportedly taken to Tora jail, on the outskirts of Cairo, were other Brotherhood leaders were already incarcerated.

Egypt's state news agency MENA said earlier on Friday unidentified gunmen in two cars opened fire on a police station in the Cairo district of Heliopolis, killing a police officer. MENA said another officer and civilian were wounded.

Curfew continues

On Thursday, Egypt's interior ministry had used a nationally televised statement to warn that its forces would act with "firmness."

Police had orders to use deadly force to defend public and private property, the ministry said. A nighttime curfew would remain in Cairo and 13 other regions.

Morsi was ousted by the army on 3 July after millions of Egyptians publicly demanded that he step down and accused his elected Islamist-led government of monopolizing power and mismanagement.

ipj/kms (AP, AFP, dpa)