An Egyptian security source says six protesters were killed Friday and at least 50 were injured in clashes between Muslim Brotherhood supporters and security forces, Israel Radio reported.
Earlier Friday, tens of thousands of protesters and Muslim Brotherhood supporters rallied throughout Egypt against a military coup and a bloody security crackdown, though tanks and armored police vehicles barred them from converging in major squares.
The protests appeared smaller than the mass demonstrations seen in previous weeks, despite a massive push by the Brotherhood for “decisive” rallies across the country after Friday prayers.
The largest protest in the capital, Cairo, had more than 10,000 protesters. Thousands gathered in other cities, with other smaller protests drawing hundreds, including many women and children.
Protesters marched through the streets chanting slogans against the country’s army chief, Gen. Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi, who led the popularly backed July 3 coup that toppled President Mohammed Morsi, a longtime leader of the Brotherhood.
“The people want the death of the assassin!” the protesters yelled while waving the Egyptian flag and holding up yellow posters with the outline of a hand showing four fingers. Morsi supporters have used the symbol in online and street campaigns to remember the sit-in protest around the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque, which in Arabic means fourth.
Security forces cleared out that sit-in and another one two weeks ago in violent raids that sparked several days of violence. More than 1,000 people, most of them people opposed to Morsi’s ouster, have been killed since. The Interior Ministry says more than 100 policemen and soldiers have also died in the violence.
Many of the protesters Friday were not Brotherhood members. Some said they were only seeking justice for relatives killed by security forces this month or protesting the way in which Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, was removed from power. Many waved the Egyptian flag and carried pictures of Morsi.
“When it started, it was only about the return of Morsi to power,” protester Ahmed Osama said. “Now it has gone past that. Blood has been shed.”
While largely peaceful, the protests drew some sporadic violence, as residents angry with the Brotherhood confronted the group’s supporters.
In the Mediterranean city of Port Said, one person was killed in clashes, security officials said. Another 22 residents were wounded by birdshot allegedly fired by the protesters, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.
Similar clashes took place in other parts of the country, including in the Nile Delta city of Zagazig, where the Brotherhood said a protester was shot dead. The group did not elaborate. Health officials said 33 people had wounded by birdshot in the fighting.
Security forces also fired tear gas at protesters in Cairo, the Nile Delta city of Tanta and south of Cairo in Assiut. Meanwhile, Egypt’s state news agency said unidentified gunmen in two cars opened fire on a police station in the upscale Cairo neighborhood of Heliopolis, killing an officer and a civilian. The drive-by attack early Friday wounded another officer, according to the MENA agency.
The Interior Ministry, in charge of police, said its forces had orders to use deadly force in defense of public and private property if protests turned violent. Two Fridays ago more than 10 police stations were attacked and government buildings assaulted by protesters. Residents and police officers in civilian clothing also fought pro-Morsi protesters in fierce street clashes.
Residents of Cairo mostly stayed off the streets Friday in anticipation of the Brotherhood rallies. A military-imposed nighttime curfew in Cairo and 13 other provinces will start two hours earlier Friday.
Once Egypt’s most powerful group, the Brotherhood appears weakened and unable to draw massive crowds for protests after the fierce security crackdown. Hundreds of the group’s members have been detained, including top leaders, as well as members’ relatives.
It also has forced the group to plan and operate underground, the way it has for much of its more than 80 year existence. Protester Ahmed Khaled, among those leading the largest Cairo protest from Nasr City to Heliopolis, said organizers weren’t telling protesters where the march was heading for security reasons.
Khaled and others said they are receiving instructions by phone on where to direct their march. He declined to elaborate further, nor did he say who was leading the march.
“We stopped communicating the itinerary and destination of the marches so nobody can follow us or wait for us with snipers at the arrival point,” he said.
Authorities took television channels sympathetic to the Brotherhood off-air after Morsi’s ouster. Qatar-based Al-Jazeera’s local affiliate in Egypt, which has aired comments from wanted Brotherhood leaders and extensively covered their protests, has faced raids on its offices. The network also has had employees across its channels arrested.
On Friday, security officials quoted in the state-owned Ahram Online said they confiscated cameras and microphones for the channel in private cars near protests. The government is moving closer to banning its broadcasts.
As protesters marched, many in the crowd expressed anger at the military-backed government. Demonstrator Sherif Osama said his cousin was killed during the Rabaa sit-in raid and that he was out “to take revenge.”
“He was killed by a bullet in his back that went out from the front,” Osama said. “At the morgue, they wrote on the death certificate that he committed suicide.”