CAIRO — Tens of thousands of supporters of Egypt’s ousted president marched Friday on the streets of Cairo and across the country, leading to clashes with opponents and security forces that injured dozens.
The marches during the Muslim holiday of Eid el-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan, come as Egypt’s government increasingly looks poised to break up sit-in protests by supporters of President Mohammed Morsi when the festivities end.
However, a leader in Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood maintained the aggressive rhetoric used by some opposing the military-backed interim government’s plans while addressing protesters Friday, raising the possibility of further bloodshed in the country.
“Kill as much as you like. I won’t move an inch,” Brotherhood leader Mohamed el-Beltagui said. “We will offer a million martyrs.” The protesters waved signs Friday bearing Morsi’s picture, who was deposed in a July 3 military coup that came after millions marched in the streets against him. While most of the protests were peaceful, clashes erupted in several locations in the country between Morsi supporters and those opposing Morsi, as well as security forces.
A security official said 28 people, including three policemen, were injured in clashes in Fayoum, south of Cairo. He told The Associated Press that security forces fired tear gas and birdshot at Brotherhood supporters who tried storming the province’s security services headquarters.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn’t authorized to speak to journalists. Dozens were injured in clashes between Morsi supporters and opponents in several villages of the northern Sharqiya province, the website of the state-run daily newspaper Al-Ahram reported.
In the Nile Delta city of Mahalla, four pro-Morsi protesters were injured after local residents attacked them when they started distributing leaflets criticizing military leader Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, witnesses said. In Gharbia province, north of Cairo, three were injured after clashes erupted between villagers and Morsi’s supporters who had organized a march, witnesses said. The two groups hurled stones at each other beforehand.
Morsi supporters demand his reinstatement, restoration of the suspended constitution drafted under Morsi and the return of the disbanded Islamist-dominated legislative council. The interim government has rejected those demands and is instead moving forward with a fast-track plan calling for revising the constitution and holding presidential and parliamentary elections early next year.
Morsi himself remains held by the military at an undisclosed location. Supporters of the ousted president continue to hold daily demonstrations at two sit-in sites in the capital, Cairo. Egypt’s government has said it had plans to break up the demonstrations, which it repeatedly has described as a threat to national security.
An earlier Cabinet statement said the government was keen not to take action during the celebrations that mark the end of Ramadan, which started Thursday and continue for four days. Authorities talked earlier about using gradual measures to end the protests, such as besieging the sit-ins to prevent people from getting in while allowing those inside to gradually leave.
Organizers of the sit-ins have brought games and other diversions to the sites, hoping to continue to draw crowds, including children. Meanwhile, guards carrying sticks and wearing hard hats still stand guard behind barricades, hinting that any attempt to end the sit-ins by force could turn bloody.