Security and hospital officials say clashes between supporters and opponents of Egypt’s Islamist president have killed at least one person and injured scores.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.
The violence in the coastal city of Mansoura, north of Cairo, began Wednesday when opponents of President Mohammed Morsi pelted his supporters with garbage as they gathered outside a mosque to stage a march to back the president.
Some 5,000 Morsi supporters from several Islamist parties — including the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafi Front and Morsi’s own Freedom and Justice Party — were staging a demonstrations for the president titled “No to Violence, Yes to Legitimacy,” according to Egypt Independent, when clashes involving Molotov cocktails broke out with the anti-Morsi demonstrators.
Dozens were injured, shops were ransacked and cars were burned in the fighting that broke out just hours before Morsi is due to deliver a speech to his nation. The speech comes days ahead of the June 30 anniversary of his first year in office, when mass protests calling for the president to resign are planned.
Clashes between the two sides have grown in frequency over the past few days during the buildup for the June 30 protests.
According to Al Arabiya, Morsi is expected to say that “hundreds of former regime members are conspiring against him, and will disclose some of their names.” He is also expected to call for national dialogue.
Earlier Wednesday, Egypt’s military brought in reinforcements of troops and armor to bases near Egyptian cities ahead of the protests.
The move comes amid heavy speculation over the army’s role in the upcoming crisis. The presidency says that the military has been coordinating closely with Morsi’s government in the run-up to the protests, but activists say they are looking to the army for protection from hard-line government supporters.
Some Islamists accuse activists of paving the ground for a coup, a charge that the opposition vehemently denies.
The officials said the deployments are restricted to the outskirts of major cities and inside existing military facilities. In Cairo, the focus of Sunday’s protests, the extra troops went to major bases to the east and west of the city of some 18 million people.