World Bulletin/News Desk
Seven people were killed during anti-government marches on Saturday while thousands rallied in support of the army-led authorities, underlining Egypt's volatile political fissures three years after the fall of autocrat president Hosni Mubarak.
Police also fired tear gas and birdshot at a crowd of anti-coup activists attempting to march toward Cairo's Tahrir Square to protest against the military-backed interim government.
The protesters were chanting slogans against the army and the police as they gathered at the Mostafa Mahmoud mosque in the district of Mohandiseen before they were chased away by police.
The square next to the mosque was blocked off by police, who arrested seven demonstrators, security sources said.
Some people tried to hold up posters of the President Mohamed Morsi, toppled by the army in July, but other protesters stopped them from doing so.
Anti-coup protesters also staged rallies in several parts of Egypt on Saturday to mark the third anniversary of the January 25 uprising that ended the 30-year rule of autocratic president Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Police forces teargased opposition demonstrators near a metro station in the southern Cairo suburb of Maadi, as demonstrators marched to demand the realization of outstanding revolutionary demands, namely "bread, freedom and social justice." Several protesters were also arrested.
Security forces also dispersed opposition rallies in the Giza districts of Mohandiseen and Talbiya, and in the eastern Cairo suburb of Nasr City.
Anti-coup rallies were also staged in the 6 October City, west of Cairo, the central Beni Sueif province and the Nile Delta province of Sharqiya.
In the coastal city of Alexandria, meanwhile, police used teargas to disperse several rallies staged by supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi.
A number of protesters suffered temporary asphyxiation.
In the central Fayoum province, clashes broke out between anti-coup protesters and security forces after the latter chanted slogans against the military and police.
Security forces also teargased anti-coup rallies in the canal cities of Suez and Ismailia and in the Nile Delta province of Daqahliya.
An explosion was reported near a riot police camp in Egypt's canal city of Suez, a security source told Anadolu Agency.
"Fierce" clashes erupted after unidentified individuals lobbed a bomb at the camp, the source said.
According to the source, unknown militants fired rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and Grinov machineguns at the camp from the roofs of surrounding buildings.
No information was immediately available about the cause of the blast. Three people have been confirmed injured.
Two people were killed and seven injured on Saturday in clashes between anti-coup demonstrators and security forces in Egypt's southern Minya province.
Gharib Mohamed, 37, along with another unidentified person, were killed when security forces dispersed their rally in which three were arrested.
According to eyewitnesses, security forces fired teargas at protesters, who responded by throwing Molotov cocktails and stones.
Pro-coup groups hold rival protests
In capital Cairo, Egyptian authorities reopened the iconic Tahrir Square to allow backers of the military and defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi to mark the third anniversary of the January 25 revolution, which ousted strongman Hosni Mubarak in early 2011.
According to an Anadolu Agency reporter on the ground, limited numbers of people have made their way in after going through electronic detection gates placed at the entrance of the square.
Policewomen searched female supporters, their handbags and undershirts to make sure they do not have the four-fingered Rabaa sign, which commemorate the killing of hundreds of supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi in the mid-August dispersal of their sit-ins.
Policemen used sniffing dogs to search for potential explosives across the square, while army choppers continue to roar in the sky overhead.
Being prevented from entering the Tahrir Square, several hawkers and tea sellers took their places at the center of the nearby Abdel-Monem Riyad Square.
Many in the crowd carried Egyptian flags and photos of the top general. Some chanted slogans urging al-Sisi to run in Egypt's upcoming presidential elections, the date for which has yet to be set.
A young man was also arrested in Tahrir Square after flashing the now-famous Rabaa sign during pro-army celebrations marking the third anniversary of the January 25 uprising that toppled autocratic president Honsi Mubarak in 2011.
The young man was seized by army supporters and handed over to army and police forces deployed on the square's outskirts.
The four-fingered Rabaa sign commemorates the killing of hundreds of supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi when security forces dispersed two Cairo sit-ins last August.
Interim Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi toured the square on Saturday to inspect security preparations in advance of the celebrations.
Elsewhere in Cairo, large photos of the army chief were erected behind a large stage set up in Abbassiya Square near the Defense Ministry, where army supporters were expected to join the celebrations.
Al-Sisi supporters also made their presence felt outside Cairo's Ittihadiya presidential palace amid tight security.
The top general's backers also took to the streets elsewhere in the country, including the coastal city of Alexandria, the central provinces of Fayoum and Beni Sueif, and the canal province of Ismailia.
Tahrir Square was the epicenter of the popular uprising against Mubarak and last summer's mass protests that preceded Morsi's overthrow by the army.
Egypt air force patrols Cairo skies for 'terrorist threats'
Elite airborne forces on Saturday patrolled the skies of capital Cairo, ready for rapid intervention against any perceived terrorist threats as the country marked the third anniversary of the January 25 uprising that unseated long-ruling autocrat Hosni Mubarak, a security source said.
Police helicopters kept tabs on the security situation across the sprawling capital and the adjacent Giza province, the source, preferring anonymity, told Anadolu Agency.
Alaa Ezz Eddin, former head of the Egyptian Army's Strategic Studies Center, told AA that the Air Force had deployed US-made Chinook and Russian Mi-8 helicopters – both carrying Special Forces – to "intervene against any attempt to disturb security."
"Gazelle helicopters check the number of protesters and security arrangements and report back any possible terrorist attempt for swift intervention," he added.
The choppers hovered over Cairo as part of stepped-up security measures taken by Egypt's army-installed interim authorities to secure planned anniversary festivities.
According to a 2013 Military Balance report issued by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, Egypt boasts two squadrons of Chinook helicopters and two squadrons of Mi-8 helicopters.
Squadrons typically comprise between 12 and 16 aircraft.
Despite tightened security measures around the international waterway, navigation proceeded normally in the vital Suez Canal and other Egyptian ports.
Suez Canal Authority Chairman Mohab Mamish said 33 ships transited the canal today, carrying a total of 2.1 million tons of commodities.
He asserted that seven security agencies are responsible for securing the international waterway and its banks.
The Suez Canal is a main source of foreign currency for Egypt, bringing in around $5 billion in revenues every year.Last Mod: 26 Ocak 2014, 09:23