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Several dead in Egypt clashes

January 25, 2015

At least 15 people have died in unrest across Egypt on the anniversary of the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak. The clashes follow the death of a woman at a left-wing protest in Cairo on Saturday.

Image: Reuters/Waguih

Most of the deaths took place in Matariyah, an Islamist stronghold in eastern Cairo, where clashes erupted between riot police and supporters of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood on Sunday. At least nine protesters and one police officer were killed in the violence, according to security officials.

Two protesters were killed in other Cairo neighborhoods, and another person died in the northern coastal city of Alexandria after what police described as an exchange of fire with armed protesters.

Security forces were deployed across the capital and in other major cities where pro-democracy protests had been planned to mark the fourth anniversary of Egypt's 18-day uprising against autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Armored vehicles sealed off Cairo's main squares, including Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of the revolt which ended Mubarak's three-decade rule.

Six police officers were wounded in the Matariyah clashes, according to officials, while two others were injured by shrapnel after a roadside bomb exploded in eastern Cairo.

In the center of Cairo, police used tear gas and birdshots to break up street battles between critics and supporters of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi. El-Sissi came to power after leading the 2013 military overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi, of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood.

The Interior Ministry said a total of 134 protesters had been arrested across the country by Sunday evening.

Commemorating the dead

Also in Cairo, activists gathered on Sunday to commemorate the death of Shaimaa el-Sabagh, a 32-year-old mother who was shot dead during a rare leftist protest on Saturday as tensions ran high ahead of the revolution's anniversary.

Barbed wire and armored vehicles block the way to Tahrir Square
Tahrir Square was sealed off during Sunday's protestsImage: Reuters/M. Abd El Ghany

Videos posted online show el-Sabagh amongst demonstrators chanting and laying wreaths to commemorate the more than 900 protesters who died in the 2011 uprising. Gunfire, allegedly by police firing birdshot at the crowd, can then be heard before a bloodied el-Sabagh is carried away.

Only the day before, another young woman was killed while protesting in Alexandria.

Low tolerance for protesters

Dozens of protesters were killed in clashes on last year's anniversary.

Security forces under El-Sissi have clamped down hard on street protests since a law adopted in 2013 banned all demonstrations without prior permission. The former army chief has openly dismissed calls for greater freedoms, and has said his priority instead is fixing the nation's ailing economy.

Islamists and supporters of the ousted Morsi have also been hit by a similar crackdown, with thousands from his Muslim Brotherhood group imprisoned or facing trial.

nm/bw (Reuters, dpa, AP, AFP)