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Muslim Brotherhood rallies in Egypt outfox military

The Muslim Brotherhood's call for protests has been heeded by thousands of Egyptians who support ousted President Mohammed Morsi. The group used smoke and mirrors to enable the mass action and avoid the security forces.

Muslim Brotherhood protesters staged a string of comparatively small demonstrations, often involving just a few hundred people, around Cairo and the rest of Egypt on Friday. After past attempts to gather in a single location prompted violent reactions from the security forces, the group appeared to try a new tactic to escape the police.

The protests were largely peaceful, according to preliminary reports, although teargas was used by police in one part of Cairo. Egypt's health ministry reported that five people, two of them police officers, were killed in Cairo, along with another civilian in Port Said. People in Alexandria, Suez, Ismaila and Assiut also took to the streets.

The largest single crowd converged near the presidential palace to the east of Cairo, despite the Brotherhood's prior claim that the demonstrations would be held at Sphinx Square. That site in western Cairo was barricaded and fortified by security forces, but only a handful of protesters showed up.

Egypt's interim cabinet issued a statement after Friday's protests saying any citizens not heeding the curfew (starting at 7 p.m. local time) would face legal consequences.

Supporters of the Brotherhood claim that Morsi's removal from office by the military, which followed major protests against the country's first democratically-elected president, was a coup. They are protesting for his release from custody and reinstatement.

'Break the coup'

Many senior and mid-ranking members of the group have been jailed, with two more leading members of the Brotherhood arrested in Egypt on Thursday. It's a situation the group is used to, having spent much of its 80-year history as an outlawed, underground movement opposing former President Hosni Mubarak.

Prior to the demonstration the Brotherhood had called on its members to "break your fear, break the coup" by again taking to the streets, even after the violent responses to past protests. More than 1,300 people, the majority of them Brotherhood supporters, have been killed in Egypt since Morsi was ousted on July 3.

Much of the bloodshed was connected to government efforts to shut down a pair of Muslim Brotherhood protest sit-ins in Cairo on August 14, with more than 600 people killed while clearing their camps.

Public opinion on the security crackdown in Egypt is reportedly rather positive among those who do not support the Brotherhood. Several broadcasters considered more sympathetic to Morsi, most notably Al Jazeera's Egyptian affiliate, have been taken off the air since the change of leadership. State-run or state-friendly outlets refer to the government crackdown as a fight against terrorism.

msh/ch (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)