CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian security forces fired tear gas Friday to disperse hundreds of Islamist demonstrators marching across the country to demand the release of detained student protesters. One person was killed south of the capital and another in the canal city of Suez.
Since Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was ousted in a popularly-backed military coup in July, his supporters have been staging near-daily protests calling for his reinstatement. Their numbers dwindled under a heavy security crackdown, but university campuses have emerged at the forefront of the movement since classes started last September.
Protests organized mainly by Islamist students on and off campus have often deteriorated into clashes with security forces, leaving two dead in November. Demonstrators gathered on Friday despite heavy rains and unprecedented low temperatures to support dozens of students arrested by authorities in recent weeks. Some of them made a four-finger hand gesture used to remember the violent breakup of an Islamist sit-in by security forces in mid-August that left hundreds dead.
Clashes erupted as security forces fired volleys of tear gas to disperse the gatherings, with local residents also chasing protesters in the industrial city of Mahallah, north of Cairo. In Cairo's southern neighborhood of Maadi, demonstrators hurled Molotov cocktails at security forces who fired tear gas to disperse them. Protesters and local residents pelted each other with stones in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.
In Suez, protesters set a police car ablaze before residents chased them away, a local security official said. A medical official said a young man was killed by a gunshot to the head in clashes between supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and anti-Islamist locals. Egypt's official news agency MENA another person, 17-year-old Belal Yassin, was killed in clashes between protesters and police in the city of Fayoum, south of Cairo.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to brief reporters. Meanwhile, the Minister of Interior, responsible for the police, visited the city of Ismailia, where a car bomb killed a soldier and wounded 18 people a day earlier.
Gen. Mohammed Ibrahim visited the wounded police and civilians, according to Egypt's state news agency, MENA. He said such "terror attacks" showed the attackers were desperate after a string of successful security raids.
There was confusion on the cause of the blast, with earlier reports claiming the explosives were planted in the ground. However Ismailia prosecutor said Friday it was a car bomb detonated by remote control.
Since Morsi's ouster, Egypt has been hit with a string of car bombs and suicide attacks, including a failed assassination attempt targeting the country's interior minister in September. In reaction, the military has pursued a broad offensive in the eastern Sinai Peninsula against suspected Islamic militants, largely blamed for the increasing attacks.