Clashes across Egypt kill 51, more protests called

The New York Times reports: At least 51 people were killed as street clashes erupted in several Egyptian cities on Sunday, in a surge of violence that raised new questions about the ability of the interim government to secure the fractured country.

The death toll was the highest in a single day since mid-August, when the authorities began their punishing crackdown on Islamist supporters of former President Mohamed Morsi, who was ousted by the army on July 3. The military-backed government that replaced him has tried to project an aura of stability in order to lure back the tourists and investors scared off by several years of turmoil in the country.

But on Sunday, only grim, familiar scenes of violence returned, along with the sounds of gunfire.

The deadly bloodshed came as thousands of Egyptians celebrated the 40th anniversary of the 1973 war with Israel, setting up a day of bizarre contrasts that served as reminders of Egypt’s deepening polarization since the ouster of Mr. Morsi.

As the military’s supporters celebrated the anniversary in Tahrir Square in Cairo with music and fireworks, officers and armed civilian loyalists set upon Islamist protesters who were also trying to reach the square, driving back their marches with tear gas and gunfire.

More than 250 people were injured, officials said.

Over the last three months, with little resistance from the public, the military has set out to vanquish the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group that propelled Mr. Morsi to power. Since July, hundreds of Brotherhood members have been killed and most of the movement’s leaders have been sent to jail or fled the country.

And Mr. Morsi’s Islamist supporters, who have re-branded themselves under the banner of the “anti-coup” movement, have continued to protest even with the repression of their marches and sit-ins, and despite dwindling attendance at their demonstrations.

They had billed the protests on Sunday as their own tribute to the armed services, while promising a new level of confrontation: for the first time since Mr. Morsi’s ouster, the Islamists called for marches on Tahrir Square, a stronghold of the anti-Morsi movement. [Continue reading…]

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