Nearly 50 people were killed in weekend clashes that erupted during rival rallies marking the anniversary of Egypt’s 2011 uprising that toppled former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian Ministry of Health said yesterday.
Three years after Egyptians rose up to demand the overthrow of Mubarak, thousands of demonstrators in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Saturday chanted slogans backing another military man, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi — who is the commander-in-chief of Egypt’s armed forces, as well as its deputy prime minister — as police clashed with Islamists and activists elsewhere.
The ministry said 49 people were killed in 24 hours of fighting across Egypt, as police and supporters of the military-installed government clashed with backers of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, an Islamist who was deposed in July last year.
Egypt was already on edge after four bombs rocked Cairo on Friday, including a massive blast outside police headquarters. The attacks, which were claimed by a Sinai-based extremist group, killed six people.
Hours before Saturday’s rallies, a bomb outside a police training center in Cairo wounded one person, while another 16 were hurt when a car bomb exploded beside a police base in Suez.
In Muhandiseen District, police fired tear gas and birdshot to disperse anti-government protesters outside a mosque, while gunfire was heard in the Alf Maskan neighborhood, where some of the deadliest fighting occured, a witness said.
Of the 49 people killed, most died in Cairo and its suburbs, while others died in Alexandria and Minya, the ministry said yesterday, adding that 247 people were injured. The Egyptian Ministry of the Interior said 1,079 “rioters” were arrested.
One of the dead in Cairo was a member of the April 6 movement that led the uprising against Mubarak and had also opposed Morsi, a group member told reporters.
The Islamist Anti-Coup Alliance, which backs Morsi, yesterday urged its supporters to continue their “revolutionary movement” in Cairo and other provinces.
Meanwhile, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri said Egypt’s majority Muslims should not fight their Christian compatriots and instead focus their efforts on opposing the military-backed authorities.
It was a rare call by al-Zawahri in defense of Christians, who largely supported the coup against Morsi and were subsequently targeted by a wave of violence.
In an audio message posted on militant Web sites, al-Zawahri said it was not in the interest of Muslims to be engaged with the Christians because “we have to be busy confronting the Americanized coup of al-Sisi and establish an Islamic government instead.”
“We must not seek war with the Christians and thus give the West an excuse to blame Muslims, as has happened before,” al-Zawahri said.
He railed against a-Sisi with particularly strong language, describing him as the same as the military strongmen who have led Egypt for the past 60 years.
“He is a mercenary, an Americanized puppet, an impostor, treacherous and sinful with a history of bootlicking,” al-Zawahri said.
Al-Zawahri urged the people of the Sinai Peninsula to support Palestinians in Gaza Strip and help break “the siege imposed by al-Sisi.”