A spate of deadly bombings had Egyptian police on edge yesterday as supporters and opponents of the military-installed government staged rival rallies for the anniversary of the 2011 Arab Spring uprising.
Hours before the rallies were due to start, a small bomb outside a police training center in north Cairo wounded one person, the Egyptian Ministry of Health said, a day after four blasts killed six people.
Al-Qaeda inspired group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, or Partisans of Jerusalem, claimed responsibility for the bombings — which targeted police — and urged ordinary “Muslims” to avoid police buildings.
Police were deployed across the capital, Cairo, as supporters of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi — an Islamist toppled by the military in July last year — readied counter-demonstrations to the commemorations called by the authorities.
Police fired tear gas to disperse one protest as soon as it gathered outside a Cairo mosque, a foreign correspondent reported. Witnesses said police dispersed another protest by leftist activists in a Cairo suburb, arresting some of them.
The Islamists had announced plans for marches from more than a dozen Cairo mosques yesterday to launch 18 days of protests.
On Friday, clashes pitting Morsi supporters against their opponents and police killed 15 people nationwide, the ministry said.
Police, who have killed hundreds of Islamist protesters in street clashes, have vowed to put a stop to their demonstrations, but have encouraged Egyptians to support the interim government, as some politicians called for rallies to back army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the general who overthrew Morsi.
Meanwhile, a US translator and an Egyptian filmmaker were detained in Cairo and have been held for three days in an undisclosed location, their lawyer said yesterday.
Ahmed Hassan, a lawyer with the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, told reporters that US citizen Jeremy Hodge, 26, of Los Angeles, and Egyptian filmmaker Hossam Eddin el-Meneai, 36, were arrested on Wednesday night.
Also yesterday, four Egyptian embassy staff were kidnapped in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, the Libyan government said.
No group claimed responsibility for any of the abductions, but they came after the Operations Room of Libya’s Revolutionaries on Friday said its leader, Shaban Hadia, had been arrested in Egypt and warned of a response. However, the group has denied involvement.