CAIRO, (Reuters) – Thousands of supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Mursi marched through Cairo and cities across Egypt yesterday to demand his reinstatement, in the movement’s biggest show of defiance since hundreds of protesters were killed two weeks ago.
Although most marches passed without major incident, a security source said there had been at least six deaths, and police fired teargas at protesters in Cairo’s Mohandiseen district.
The army-backed government, which has shot dead hundreds of supporters of Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood since he was toppled by the military on July 3, had warned that forces posted at key intersections since morning would open fire if protests turned violent.
Having arrested most of the Brotherhood’s leaders, it hoped by now to have suffocated the protests against its decision to force out and crush the movement that ruled Egypt for a year.
But its prospects of presenting a return to normality looked to have been set back by live television pictures of teargas and burning tyres in Cairo, as well as the sheer number of separate marches that the well-organised Brotherhood managed to stage.
The security source said there had been at least 50 injured throughout Egypt, in addition to the six dead, and more than 20 arrests.
The cabinet issued a statement after the protests saying that anyone who disregarded the curfew would face legal consequences.
The demonstrators appeared mostly to have opted for numerous scattered protests, avoiding Cairo’s bigger squares or the scenes of earlier protests such as the pro-Mursi street camps where security forces shot dead more than 600 people on Aug. 14.
Just after Friday prayers, around 500 protesters set off from central Cairo’s Sahib Rumi mosque, chanting: “Wake up, don’t be afraid, the army must leave”, “The Interior Ministry are thugs” and “Egypt is Islamic, not secular”.
By mid-afternoon, thousands were marching in districts across Cairo calling for the return of the elected government, and some remained outside the presidential palace in the capital until just before the 7 p.m. (1700 GMT) curfew.
Soldiers and helmeted police in black uniforms and bulletproof vests, armed with teargas and semi-automatic rifles, manned checkpoints near the protests and blocked roads.
In Egypt’s second city, Alexandria, a total of more than 10,000 protesters took part in several separate demonstrations.
Marches were also held in several cities in the Nile Delta including Tanta, in the three Suez Canal cities of Suez, Ismailia and Port Said, and in the southern city of Assiut.