Two dead in Egypt violence and Islamist protests


Two people including an army general were killed and 25 were wounded on Friday in a drive-by shooting and clashes that erupted during Islamist protests around Egypt, security sources and health officials said.

Police were out in force in anticipation of the protests, which were called by a hardline Salafi group with the aim of toppling the government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the ex-army chief who led last year’s overthrow of the elected Islamist president, Mohamed Mursi.

In Matariya, focal point for early afternoon protests in Cairo, one person was killed before security forces dispersed the gathering, security sources said.

Hours before of the protests, an army brigadier general was killed and two others were wounded when gunmen opened fire in a parking lot in nearby Gesr al-Suez, they said.

But apart from sporadic outbursts of violence, the gatherings were poorly attended, especially compared to the millions-strong rallies that led to the overthrow of autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Reuters witnesses put the number in Matariya, the largest gathering in Cairo, at around 50. An Interior Ministry statement said they numbered about 400, with 50 more gathering in Ain Shams. It said 12 people were arrested.

Security sources said violence also erupted in the southern town of Beni Soueif and in the Nile Delta towns of Sharqiya and Kafr Sheikh.

Since the army’s ousting of Mursi in July 2013, Egypt has cracked down hard on his Muslim Brotherhood supporters, arresting thousands and sentencing hundreds to death in mass trials that have drawn international criticism.

Hundreds of Brotherhood supporters were also killed on one day in August 2013 when security forces cleared two protest camps in one of the bloodiest episodes in Egypt’s modern history.

That crackdown and subsequent laws banning protests without permission, have created an atmosphere of fear and severely dampened enthusiasm for the mass protests that brought down two presidents in three years in Egypt.

Brotherhood protests have dwindled, and now attract just dozens who emerge briefly in back streets before melting away.

Egypt has also sought to curb radical preaching, replacing thousands of imams and controlling their Friday sermons.

The Salafi Front termed its call for protests on Friday the “Uprising of Islamist Youth”, alienating secular critics of Sisi and also limiting turnout.

The Salafi Front said demonstrations would continue through the day and issued a statement urging protesters to remain peaceful.