Egypt clashes kill 49 on third anniversary of revolution

Military helicopters are hovering above Tahrir Square, as Sally Nabil reports

At least 49 people have been killed in clashes in Egypt as the country marks the anniversary of the 2011 uprising which overthrew President Hosni Mubarak, the health ministry says.

Rival demonstrations of supporters and opponents of the military-backed government took place in Cairo.

But police broke up anti-government protests, and arrests were reported in Cairo and Alexandria.

Hundreds have died since July when the army deposed President Mohammed Morsi.

Analysis

In 2011, Tahrir Square was the symbolic heart of Egypt's uprising during 18 days of protests that unseated President Hosni Mubarak - a former military man who kept an iron grip on power for 30 years.

But now - after three years of political turmoil - many of those who have returned here are calling on the army leader, Gen Abdul Fatah al-Sisi to launch a presidential bid.

"He's a good man. He's a hero. I want Sisi to be my president," a middle-aged woman, Aida, said.

It was Gen al-Sisi who unseated Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader, last year after mass protests against his rule.

But street violence has continued since. Islamists turned out again on Saturday, declaring that the revolution had been hijacked; liberals also called for a different direction for the country.

"Basically, this isn't the third anniversary for the revolution that we were hoping for," said Egyptian writer Ahdaf Soueif. "The security state is back and also a great many activists are in jail."

Extra security measures were in place for Saturday.

Flags and banners

Egyptian Interior Minister Muhammad Ibrahim had urged Egyptians not to be afraid to go to events marking the anniversary of the uprising.

Thousands of supporters of the military and the government gathered in high-profile locations including Tahrir Square - the focal point of the 18-day 2011 popular revolt.

Participants waved Egyptian flags and banners showing army chief Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, whom many urged to run for president.

Meanwhile on Saturday, an army helicopter crashed in the restive Sinai peninsula, with an unconfirmed report that its crew of five soldiers was dead.

A large car bomb exploded near a police building in Suez, at the southern entrance of the Suez canal, with reports that nine people were injured.

At least 18 people died in violence on Friday.

Supporters of Egypt's army and police gather at Tahrir Square in Cairo, on the third anniversary of Egypt's uprising on Saturday Huge crowds turned out in Cairo's Tahrir Square - the focal point of the 2011 uprising - urged on by members of Egypt's military-backed government
An Egyptian man holds a poster and a mask depicting Egyptian army chief Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sisi with Arabic that reads, "complete your good deed," near Tahrir Square in Cairo on Saturday Many held posters - such as this one - urging military chief Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to "complete his good deed" and run for president
Arrests

Start Quote

25898366File photo of Peter Greste

The prisons are overflowing with anyone who opposes or challenges the government”

End Quote Peter Greste Al-Jazeera journalist detained in Egypt

The BBC's Yolande Knell, in Cairo, says that three years on from an uprising that raised hopes of political reform in the Arab world's most populated country, rival demonstrations are showing the deep divisions.

There is an extreme anti-Islamist emphasis at pro-government rallies, with chants for "the execution of the Brotherhood" and fury at anyone believed to be critical of the post-coup leadership, reports said.

At anti-government protests, police chase protesters into side streets, firing live rounds as well as tear gas and birdshot.

One of those killed was a member of the April 6 movement, which led protests against Mubarak before and during the 2011 uprising and also opposed Mr Morsi, the group said.

Scores of arrests have been reported in Cairo and Egypt's second city, Alexandria - not just of Islamist supporters of deposed President Morsi, but secular opponents of the military government who have also been protesting.

"The only thing allowed is Sisi revolutionaries," one of the activists, blogger Wael Khalil, told the Associated Press news agency.

"This was supposed to be a day to mark the revolution... I don't get it. Do they think that there will be a working democracy this way?"

Hundreds of anti-military protesters, both supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and secular activists opposed to both camps, gather on the third anniversary of the country's 2011 uprising before security forces disperse them with teargas and birdshot, in Cairo's district of Mohandessin, Egypt, on Saturday Opponents of the military regime - both Islamist and secular - attempted to gather but were dispersed by security services using live rounds, tear gas and birdshot
A plainclothes security officer, holding a gun, detains a supporter of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in the Cairo neighbourhood of Nasr City, Egypt, on Saturday Here, a plain-clothes security officer - holding a gun - detains a a supporter of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in the Cairo neighbourhood of Nasr City

Al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste - detained by Egyptian authorities for nearly a month - has written a letter from solitary confinement, describing Egypt's prisons as "overflowing with anyone who opposes or challenges the government".

Muslim Brotherhood

  • Egypt's oldest and largest Islamist organisation
  • Founded by Hassan al-Banna in 1928
  • Has influenced Islamist movements worldwide
  • Mixes political activism with charity work
  • Wants to create a state governed by Islamic law
  • Slogan: "Islam is the solution"
  • Banned and declared a terrorist organisation in late 2013

The Anti-Coup Alliance, led by Mr Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, called in a statement for 18 days of protests beginning on Saturday, mirroring the 18 days of protests that three years ago led to Mr Mubarak stepping down.

The Brotherhood has regularly held protests since the overthrow of Mr Morsi. Hundreds of its supporters have been killed, and thousands detained.

It has been declared a "terrorist organisation" and accused by the interim government of being behind a string of violent attacks in recent months, which the Brotherhood denies.

In a defiant statement on Saturday, the Brotherhood vowed not to leave the streets "until it fully regains its rights and breaks the coup and puts the killers on trial", reported the Associated Press news agency.

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