Egyptian police in deadly clashes with Muslim Brotherhood activists

Two dead as Mohamed Morsi supporters battle security forces and rival political factions in Alexandria and capital

Two people have been killed in clashes that erupted between pro-Islamist protesters and police in Egypt’s coastal city of Alexandria, the ministry of interior said.

Egypt has been hit by a wave of violent demonstrations since the army removed the elected Islamist president Mohamed Morsi from office in July, following mass protests against his rule. Hundreds have been killed and thousands arrested since then.

The interior ministry said the clashes late on Wednesday occurred during two marches organised by 200 Muslim Brotherhood members in Alexandria.

“They [the protesters] blocked the road … set shops on fire, burned a citizen’s car, fired guns and birdshot, and clashed with and terrorised the people,” the ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

It said some residents had exchanged fire with the protesters, killing two people and injuring three police officers. The police forces managed to end the clashes and arrested 10, according to the statement.

Earlier on Wednesday, police fired teargas and water cannon at hundreds of pro-Morsi protesters demonstrating near the defence ministry in Cairo, after they blocked a road and chanted anti-police and army slogans, according to state media reports.

Police also fired teargas on pro-Morsi student protesters from the state’s main university in the Nile Delta city of Zakazik, the former president’s home town. Students supporting Morsi have been staging daily protests inside and outside their universities since the start of a new academic year in September. At least 10 students have been killed during clashes with the police.

Last November Egypt’s army-installed interim government issued a law that banned protests near or originating from places of worship and made it compulsory to seek interior ministry permission to hold a demonstration. Since the law was passed hundreds of Brotherhood protesters and liberal activists have been arrested for demonstrating without permission.

On Thursday seven activists were sentenced to two years in prison on several charges including protesting without a permit and clashing with police last month. The activists were arrested on 2 December while demonstrating during the retrial of two policemen accused in the killing of Khalid Said. Said, beaten to death in June 2010, became a rallying call of Egypt’s 2011 uprising.

In the southern city of Beni Suef an activist in the leftist Popular Current group was arrested and security forces confiscated his laptop computer, the movement said in a statement, identifying him as Mohamed Mostafa. A police source said he was detained for posting anti-army and police comments on Facebook.

Since Morsi’s removal, which opened the bloodiest chapter in Egypt’s modern history, security forces have killed hundreds and arrested thousands of his supporters. Some 400 soldiers and policemen also have been killed, many in attacks by Islamist militants in the Sinai peninsula, bordering Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Morsi and most of the Brotherhood’s top leaders are on trial on a group of charges ranging from inciting violence against protesters to co-operating with foreign organisations to execute terrorist acts in Egypt. On Thursday an Egyptian judge said 28 January had been set as the opening day of Morsi’s third trial – on charges of organising prison breaks with the help of foreign militants. The jailbreaks took place during the January 2011 uprising against Morsi’s predecessor, Hosni Mubarak.

Morsi was jailed in Cairo at the time and escaped with more than 30 others, while more than 20,000 inmates escaped from prisons across Egypt, including militants from Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Palestinian group Hamas.

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