Cairo (AFP) – Egyptian police fired live rounds into the air and tear gas at Islamist protesters in Cairo as supporters and opponents of ousted president Mohamed Morsi clashed in the capital and elsewhere after Friday prayers.
Fighting erupted in Cairo as protesters from the Muslim Brotherhood, to which Morsi belongs, marched in defiance of an ongoing crackdown by the authorities against Islamists.
Police fired live rounds into the air and tear gas to prevent protesters from entering Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square, an AFP correspondent reported.
They were acting against several hundred people who were chanting “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest), the correspondent reported.
The warning shots succeeded in dispersing the protesters from Abdel Moneim Riad Square, which is close to Tahrir, pushing them back towards nearby Ramses Square.
But clashes continued in the vicinity of Tahrir Square, the focal point of the 2011 popular uprising that drove Morsi’s predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, from office.
Eight people were reportedly wounded in those clashes, head of emergency services Khaled al-Khatib told AFP.
The army closed all the entrances to Tahrir Square, and most shops in downtown Cairo remained shut, while protesters were also marching towards the defence ministry.
Fighting between the two groups also erupted in the Maniyal, Shubra and Dokki districts of the capital, witnesses and AFP reporters said, and thousands of pro-Morsi supporters marched in the Nasr City district.
An AFP correspondent said thousands of Morsi supporters marched in Nasr City, which houses Rabaa al-Adawiya Square — one of two sites of an August 14 crackdown by security forces on Morsi backers in the capital.
Hundreds died that day after clashes erupted at Rabaa and Nahda squares, as well as elsewhere in the country.
The government defended the operation, saying it was measured and that security forces acted with self-restraint after coming under fire.
On Friday, marchers in Nasr City flashed the four fingers sign, a symbol of Rabaa, and carried banners with pictures of several of those killed in the August 14 crackdown, chanting “Revenge! Revenge!”
Meanwhile, hundreds of Morsi supporters chanted slogans against the military and army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi when they clashed with opponents in Maniyal, a witness said, adding that both sides fired birdshot at each other.
Another witness told AFP clashes in Shubra ended after security forces intervened and chased away the fighting groups.
Clashes were also reported in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, state news agency MENA reported.
Friday’s demonstrations were called by the Anti-Coup alliance led by the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been regularly calling protests since the July 3 army coup against Morsi.
Morsi was ousted following mass protests against his year-long rule. He has been held at an unknown location since then.
The ability of the Anti-Coup Alliance to garner large numbers has waned following the security crackdown on Islamists.
More than 2,000 Islamists have been arrested so far, including top leaders of the Brotherhood.