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Egypt News Update (25 January 2014)

[Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt. Image originally posted to Flickr by Hossam El-Hamalawy] [Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt. Image originally posted to Flickr by Hossam El-Hamalawy]

[This is a collection of news updates on Egypt compiled from multiple sources by the editors.]

Three-Way Commemoration of Egypt's Revolution Anniversary; Twenty-Nine Dead in Clashes

Thousands take to streets to celebrate January 25 Revolution despite fears of terrorist attacks; Police disperse Brotherhood protests and Way of Revolution demonstrations; at least twenty-nine dead, 300 arrested; attack on police camp in Suez.

While hundreds of thousands are celebrating the day and cheer for the army around the country, death toll in clashes on the third anniversary of January 25 Revolution has risen to twenty-nine, Egypt's health ministry said. 

Clashes have been ongoing in downtown Cairo several hundred meters away from Tahrir Square, as security dispersed protesters chanting against both military rule and against Brotherhood.

By the late afternoon hours, the Way of the Revolution Front, an anti-military, anti-Muslim Brotherhood coalition group that participated in Saturday's demonstrations, has urged its members to end their protests following clashes with security forces.

The 6 April Youth Movement (Democratic Front) has announced that one of its members, Sayed Wizza, died from a bullet wound after police attacked a march from the Journalists' Syndicate in downtown Cairo.

The march of secular and independent groups, opposed to both the Muslim Brotherhood and the military, had left from the press syndicate and began to march to nearby Tahrir Square when they were met by pro-military supporters, resulting in clashes. Police arrived shortly after and dispersed both camps with birdshot and teargas.

Secular demos attacked

Earlier in the afternoon, police fired tear gas and birdshot to disperse two separate marches heading from Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque to Tahrir Square on the third anniversary of the January 25 Revolution, according to an Ahram Online reporter on the scene.

A pro-Muslim Brotherhood march and a distinct Way of the Revolution Front march gathered separately in front of the mosque in preparations for marches to Tahrir Square.

A protest at the Journalists' Syndicate in downtown Cairo has been dispersed by security forces firing birdshot and heavy teargas. Armored vehicles reportedly drove through the demonstration to disperse the crowd.

Demonstrators at the press syndicate had chanted against the military and the Muslim Brotherhood. They had then marched from the building with intentions of reaching Tahrir Square, a few blocks away, but were stopped mid-way at Talaat Harb Square, where they clashed with supporters of General Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi coming up from the pro-military celebrations in Tahrir.

Pro-government forces celebrate in Tahrir

Meanwhile, celebrations of the third anniversary of the revolution by supporters of the interim government started Saturday amid tight security after the day opened with a limited explosion increasing fears of further violence after four bombs exploded Friday.

Tens of thousands have already flocked to Tahrir Square to celebrate the anniversary heeding a call by the interim government and political groups.

The Wafd Party, the Free Egyptians Party, along with Tamarod, the group that spearheaded the protests leading to the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, called on Egyptians to join the festivities Saturday in Tahrir Square.

Citizens entering the iconic square are being searched with metal detectors. Military helicopters are also hovering over the area.

Egyptian flags are being waved around Tahrir, with some holding posters of army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi. 

A stage has been set up from the night before.

Many of Egypt's other main squares gradually filled up with celebrating demonstrators. Crowds waving Egyptian flags and carrying pictures of General El-Sisi have already gathered in Alexandria's Sidi Gaber as well as in Sohag, Fayoum and Aswan in Upper Egypt.

In Alexandria, supporters of army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi gathered in Sidi Gaber and Al-Qaed Ibrahim squares demanding the army chief runs for presidency.

Pro-Morsi rallies violently dispersed

Supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi organised protests across the nation against what they describe as a 'coup' which removed him from power last July.

Supporters of Morsi have already marched in several parts of Greater Cairo -- the satellite city 6 October, where ten protesters were arrested, Giza and Haram west of Cairo, where they were dispersed by security forces, and in Faisal, where they were dispersed by pro-military citizens.

In Alexandria, Brotherhood supporters also organized rallies demanding the reinstatement of ousted President Morsi. The protesters chanted that "Morsi is a president for millions" and declared that they were "eager for martyrdom."

Police general Nasser El-Abd, a high-level police officer in Alexandria, announced that security forces had arrested tens of pro-Brotherhood protesters wielding Molotov cocktails and birdshot rifles. 

Security forces used tear gas to disperse pro-Morsi rallies in Sidi Bishr, Asafra, and Borg Al-Arab.Two other pro-Morsi marches in western Cairo districts were also dispersed – one in front of Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque in Mohandiseen and another in Giza's Haram, where security officials fired teargas and rubber bullets.

The protests on Saturday had been announced earlier this week by supporters of the ousted Islamist president, including the pro-Morsi National Alliance to Support Legitimacy (NASL), which has deemed the run-up to Egypt's third anniversary of the 25 January 2011 revolution as "The Revolutionary Challenge Week."

The day has witnessed pro-Morsi demonstrations across the capital – in front of Al-Qudsi Mosque in the northern Ain Shams district, as well as in Al-Hay Al-Asher and Mostafa Nahas streets in Nasr City, both of which were halted by security forces.

Several protesters also gathered in the working-class district of Matariya in Cairo, chanting against the military and raising the four-fingered Rabaa sign, a symbol of the pro-Brotherhood Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in that was violently dispersed by the military last August.

In Ismailia, dozens of Brotherhood supporters were dispersed by security forces after organising rallies in the city.

In Assuit city not less than fifteen pro-Brotherhood protesters, including several women, were arrested by security forces. Security sources told Al-Ahram Arabic that those arrested were holding banners displaying the yellow four-fingered Rabaa salute associated with supporters of the Brotherhood and ousted president Mohamed Morsi.

Several other protests in support of Morsi took place in other towns in the governorate of Assiut where protesters initiated several marches chanting for “a new revolution” and the fall of the "regime."

In Minya, Upper Egypt, a pro-Morsi march leaving from Omar Ibn Al-Khattab Mosque also chanted against “military rule.”

Security sources told Ahram Online that at least 300 people have been arrested in today's protests across Egypt.

Car bomb detonates at Suez police camp

An explosion at a Suez police camp in the late afternoon hours resulted from a car bomb and not an RPG, said General Abdel-Fattah Osman, Egypt's Deputy Interior Minister for Media Affairs.

General Hani Abdel-Latif, spokesperson for the ministry of interior, had previously reported that anti-government militants fired an RPG at the Central Security Forces (CSF) camp in Suez. 

Four were injured in the attack and transferred to Suez General Hospital, according to a source in Suez's ambulance authority who spoke with Ahram's Arabic news website.

According to eye witnesses, there have been ongoing clashes at the site between the militants and security forces around the camp using live ammunition. 

Tight security in capital

Earlier in the day, unknown militants fired birdshot at Tahrir Square in a drive-by shooting in the early hours of Saturday, injuring one before hurrying away from the area, Al-Ahram Arabic website reported.

Security forces closed off all roads leading to the Ministry of Defense in Abbasiya in anticipation of unrest, forcing vehicles and passersby to take alternate routes to reach their destinations. However, hundreds marched in the middle class district chanting slogans that reflect their support for the army and calling on its head, El-Sisi, to run for the presidency.

Main security directorates and police stations have also been cordoned off, with policemen stationed outside them.

The Rabaa Al-Adawiya crossroad, in Cairo's Nasr City district, where a six-week pro-Morsi vigil was held before the police forcefully dispersed it last August, was also sealed off.

In Ain Shams, where an explosion had taken place early Saturday, defiant demonstrations took the streets with many holding up pictures of El-Sisi.

The minor explosion left no casualties.

An official source told the state owned MENA news agency that an improvised explosive device was set off in front of a police training centre in Cairo's Ain Shams district. According to the source, some damage was done to the centre's perimeter fence.

The explosion came one day after a string of four explosions hit Cairo, killing six and injuring at least eighty.

The four explosions targeted police institutions and checkpoints.

An Al-Qaeda-inspired group, Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis (Partisans of Jerusalem), claimed responsibility for the bombing of the Cairo Security Directorate. The group, which has claimed the deadliest militant attacks since former president Mohamed Morsi's ouster in July, warned Egyptians in an audio statement against taking to the streets Saturday.

The Muslim Brotherhood, labeled a terrorist organization by Egypt's interim government, denied any ties with Friday's explosions.

Morsi supporters also took the streets Friday, clashing with security forces and opponents. Fifteen were reported killed in the violence witnessed in Cairo, Giza, Alexandria and Ismailia.

[This article originally appeared on Ahram Online.]


Crowds Celebrate Egypt’s Revolution, Military in Tahrir Square

Huge crowds gather in central Cairo to celebrate third anniversary of 2011 uprising, while a short distance away anti-military protests are dispersed by police.

Tens of thousands converged on Egypt’s iconic Tahrir Square on Saturday, marking three years since the 2011 revolution that ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Footage aired on state TV showed families and young people in the central square, many waving Egyptian flags, while nationalist songs were played from a temporary stage.

Many of those in the square held banners and posters urging army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to run for the presidency, or were chanting pro-military slogans.

A number of popular campaigns, including one called "By the Command of the People," have been set up to lobby El-Sisi to run for the presidency in the upcoming elections, expected by mid-2014.

Streets leading into and out of the square were closed off and there was a heavy police presence in the area. Metal detectors were placed at some entrances to the square to assist with the searches of those entering.

Earlier on Saturday, Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi paid a visit to the square, saying he is “proud of Egyptians and their victory in both the January 25 Revolution and 30 June revolution.”

Several hundred meters away from Tahrir Square, police dispersed protesters who were chanting against both military rule and against the Muslim Brotherhood.

Police used birdshot and teargas to disperse protesters, many members of the Way of the Revolution Front, barring them from marching to Tahrir Square.

At least nine people were killed on Saturday in a number of different governorates as security forces and local residents clashed with supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi.

Security sources told Ahram Online that at least 300 people were arrested on Saturday across Egypt.

[This article originally appeared on Ahram Online.]


Sisi For President Slogans Dominate Jan 25 Events

Pictures of Defense Minister General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi donning civilian clothing dominated celebrations at the Ettehadiya Presidential Palace in Heliopolis on Saturday, reported the state-owned Middle East News Agency (MENA).

Calls for the man of the hour to run for president marked the commemoration of the 25 January anniversary in Cairo and elsewhere.

Large banners with Sisi’s picture were set up next to stages blasting popular pro-army song, “Teslam al-Ayadi,” around the presidential palace.

MENA boasted that the main stage was equipped with thirty amplifiers and twenty-eight spotlights and that the festivities were being filmed by two camera cranes.   

Police and Armed Forces cordoned off the area, securing the entrances with checkpoints where they searched those joining the celebrations while marches calling for Sisi’s candidacy arrived at Ettehadiya.

Later in the day singer, Ihab Tawfik, took to the stage giving an impassioned speech about defeating fear and continuing celebrations and pleading with Sisi to become president through song.

In downtown’s Tahrir Square and Abbasseya, the mood was also celebratory, with protesters holding up posters of Sisi and Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim while dancing to the pro-military song.

Other governorates also used the anniversary as an opportunity to reiterate calls for the defense minister to announce his candidacy.

In Alexandria, huge posters showed a picture of Sisi amidst rulers of Arab countries that support the current military-backed government. Slogans surrounding the posters called for Arab unity.  

[This article originally appeared on Mada Masr.]


Twenty-Nine Killed in Clashes on January 25 Anniversary

By Saturday evening at least twenty-nine people were reported killed and 176 injured in clashes between protesters and security forces nationwide, according to a Health Ministry statement.

On the third anniversary of the January 25 revolution that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, security was heightened around major squares and roads nationwide, but failed to prevent the violent clashes that broke out across the country.

The Interior Ministry had said it was prepared to fully protect citizens and secure 25 January "festivities." In downtown Cairo's Tahrir Square, the situation was calm as crowds rallied to celebrate in a festive atmosphere. Gunshots were heard earlier in the day, but this did not deter people from gathering in the square. 

By evening, Tahrir Square had filled up with tens of thousands who lit fireworks and chanted, “Egypt will always be dear to me,” state-owned Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported. The crowds “affirmed their defiance of the Brotherhood’s armed militias,” maintaining that going to the square today was a clear message to terrorist forces seeking to kidnap Egypt.

Egypt's metro authority stated that it was running thirty metro cars to the keep up with the crowds expected to flood into Tahrir, MENA reported.

But clashes that erupted outside the square left four dead in Cairo, two in Minya and two in Giza, in addition to one fatality in Alexandria, the Ministry of Health stated. Several were also injured in clashes that broke out in Fayoum, Ismailia, Assiut and Beni Suef.

As altercations escalated into the afternoon, the Revolution Path Front called on its members to withdraw from protests in an official statement, denouncing what it described as the excessive use of violence by security forces.

The front is a coalition of several revolutionary forces, including the April 6 Youth Movement and the Revolutionary Socialists. Members of the coalition had been present at the Mostafa Mahmoud protest in Cairo's Mohandiseen neighborhood, which was quickly dispersed around one p.m., and also joined a demonstration on the Journalists’ Syndicate steps at two p.m. in downtown.

Later, the group marched from the syndicate en route to Tahrir Square, but the march was violently dispersed when security forces fired tear gas and shots in the air.

"The conflict with the regime is ongoing, but protecting your souls and freedoms is the most important hope remaining for the revolution," the statement from the Revolution Path Front said.

In Tahrir, the mood was celebratory, with protesters holding up posters of Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, while dancing to pro-military song "Teslam al-Ayady."

But outside of the square, security forces had moved to quickly disperse protests and marches organized by groups of different political affiliations.

A march of 300 people in front of the High Court building on Ramses Street was dispersed using tear gas, the state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram reported. Protesters were chanting against the military, the police and the interim government's roadmap. 

Meanwhile in Mohandiseen, violence continued following the dispersal of the march that had gathered at Mostafa Mahmoud Square intending to head to Tahrir. Protesters of a variety of political affiliations began gathering after noon prayers. Some were from the umbrella group that calls itself the Anti-Coup Alliance, made up of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and deposed President Mohamed Morsi.

They raised the yellow and black Rabea sign, which has come to symbolize the movement, as well as the violent 14 August dispersal of the Rabea al-Adaweya and Nahda Square sit-ins that demanded Morsi's reinstatement. 

Some chanted “The people want to overthrow the regime,” and “Down with military rule.”

Other protesters were not affiliated with the Brotherhood and said they were there for the “original demands” of the January 25 Revolution. They attempted to convince those holding the Rabea sign to stop, saying, “We have to stay focused. We are here for the demands of the revolution and we do not want to ruin the day with other demands."

Haytham Mohamedeen, a member of the Revolutionary Socialists, was among those leading the chants, saying: “Not for legitimacy, nor for a mandate, the revolution continues.”

Osama Ashraf, a student and member of the April 6 Youth Movement, stated that while he’s not against Rabea, he refuses to side with the Brotherhood.

Some of the protesters began singing anti-police chants from the Ultras Ahlawy group.

Mada Masr reporters on the scene said protesters quickly scattered and ducked for cover as security forces launched an unprovoked attack, firing in the air what sounded like birdshot, causing several injuries.

After entering the area with APCs and dispersing the protest, military and Central Security Forces personnel roamed the area on foot, checking to see where people were hiding.

Al-Ahram reported that security forces chased protesters in side streets around the neighborhood, located in the Giza governorate.

Tarek Shalaby, a member of the Revolutionary Socialists who was also present at the march, reported that the dispersal started just past one p.m. He said he saw protesters being detained, and all who were left in the square were about 200 to 300 plainclothes and uniformed police.

Al-Ahram reported that fifteen were arrested in the Mohandiseen clashes, and were allegedly in possession of Molotov cocktails. A security source told Al-Ahram that ten members of the 6 April Youth Movement were among those arrested.

The area was then sealed off by security forces.

Sources from the Anti-Coup Alliance said that crowds then regrouped to continue their protest in Mohandiseen’s Sudan Street.

Residents of the area told Mada Masr that gunfire was heard as police and military forces were seen chasing protesters.

One resident overlooking Sudan Street said he saw young protesters arrive there after the main march in Mostafa Mahmoud was dispersed. The protesters reportedly set tires on fire and chanted "Down with military rule" and "Down with the regime."

Other residents in Dokki and Mohandiseen also reported hearing gunfire from the direction of Sudan Street.

Many of those who were scattered from the Mostafa Mahmoud march then headed to the Journalists’ Syndicate, where a protest was scheduled to start at two p.m. on the historic steps of the building.

Shalaby, who headed to the syndicate after the march, stated that “as numbers grew, we were eventually surrounded and at a dead end on both sides. The atmosphere was very hostile and I felt that I had to carry a poster of Sisi in order to have a safe exit."

Shalaby and a few others left the scene unharmed, but fear many may have been detained.

At the syndicate, the protest was mostly made up of revolutionary forces, as passersby honked and saluted them as they drove by, including passengers on buses. They chanted against “all those who betrayed [the revolution],” including the army, Interior Ministry and different political forces.

In response, one passerby, thirty-three-year-old Ahmed Khaled, said, "The people and the army are one. They cannot destroy that."

Chants popular among the Ultras Ahlawy, including “We will not forget Tahrir, you sons of filth,” could also be heard.

Ahmed Aboul Magd from the Revolutionary Path Front said, “We are here today because we want the regime to fall. We said it three years ago and we still say it today."

“We say down to everyone who betrayed us for power: The feloul [remnants of Mubarak’s regime], the Brotherhood and the military. We still want a country without a pharaoh and where we can have dignity, freedom and rights.”

He added that revolutionary forces refuse to accept any kind of violence, whether from the state or from militant groups.

“We are here to show that we are here and always will be. The revolution continues," he said.

Others also called on people to remember those who were killed by security forces over the past three years. “Do not forget who killed Jika: the Brotherhood and the Interior Ministry,” they said, referring to Gaber Saleh, who was killed in 2012 during the second anniversary of the Mohamed Mahmoud clashes.

Meanwhile, security sources said that police quelled an attempt by members of the Muslim Brotherhood to storm the October 6 police station, according to Al-Ahram. Three were arrested, and were allegedly in possession of weapons and live ammunition.

According to activists, tens were arrested early on Saturday during a protest in the Cairo neighborhood of Maadi, including prominent activist Nazly Hussein.

Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi had visited Tahrir Square early on Saturday as army helicopters flew overhead, releasing gifts onto the crowds celebrating below in what was once the epicenter of the 2011 revolution.

Beblawi lauded the crowds’ “persistence to mobilize and celebrate the revolution,” and challenged the terrorist acts aimed at breaking the people’s resolve.

On Friday, four blasts rocked the capital, leaving at least six dead and dozens injured. That same day, clashes broke out between supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and security forces, leaving at least fifteen dead.

Beblawi said the large crowds will ensure the success of the celebrations of the third anniversary

[This article originally appeared on Mada Masr.]


Fierce Clashes Continue in Cairo’s Alf Maskan Area

Clashes escalated on Saturday evening in eastern Cairo’s Alf Maskan neighborhood, leaving scores injured and an unconfirmed numbers of deaths.

As the third anniversary of the 25 January uprising got underway, there was a stark contrast between festivities in Tahrir Square and clashes elsewhere around the country.

At least nine people were killed in the clashes nationwide according to the Health Ministry, but several more are believed to have been killed as the fiercest clashes continued in Alf Maskan.

The ministry has not yet officially updated the death toll, but a source there said the number of those killed could reach at least twenty. Hundreds have been arrested around the country.

The Alf Maskan neighborhood is a regular site of some of the most violent confrontations between security forces and Muslim Brotherhood supporters during their weekly Friday protests.

Karim Ennarah, researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, told Mada Masr that brutal altercations between Brotherhood supporters and police forces have been ongoing for more than three hours as of Saturday evening.

A large numbers of Brotherhood supporters had marched from the Ain Shams district to Alf Maskan earlier in the day. Ain Shams is known to have a strong Brotherhood presence.

"Continuous live ammunition was heard from different locations, and it is very difficult to locate the source. Other eyewitness say there was an exchange of gunfire," Ennarah said.

Earlier in the day, a homemade bomb went off in Ain Shams outside a police institute, causing limited damage and no injuries.

Clashes also broke out between residents of Matareya district, which is very close to Alf Maskan, and Brotherhood protesters, the state-owned Middle East News Agency reported.

[This article originally appeared on Mada Masr.] 

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