Last updated: 11 October, 2013

Islamists urge protesters to avoid Cairo’s Tahrir

An Islamist alliance urged its supporters to stay away from Cairo's Tahrir Square during protests Friday to avoid more bloodshed after a week in which nearly 80 Egyptians were killed.

Around 2,000 Islamists rallied in Cairo Friday after organisers backtracked from marching on Tahrir Square, avoiding a repeat of last week’s clashes with police that killed dozens of people.

The Islamist Anti-Coup Alliance had urged its supporters to stay away from the iconic square to avoid more bloodshed after a week in which nearly 80 Egyptians were killed, many of them in the capital.

The interior ministry had warned Islamists it would “confront any attempts to break the legitimacy” of the interim government.

Some 2,000 supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi rallied outside a presidential palace, carrying posters of the man now detained by the military after it removed him on July 3.

In the coastal city of Alexandria, police fired tear gas to disperse Islamists when they clashed with civilian opponents, a security official said.

In the Nile Delta province of Sharqiya, a protester died after suffering a heart attack, the head of the health ministry’s emergency services Ahmed al-Ansari told AFP.

The official news agency MENA earlier reported a protester was killed in clashes.

An interior ministry statement said most of Friday’s “limited” marches passed off peacefully.

But in Sinai, where Islamist militants are waging an insurgency against security forces, at least nine soldiers were wounded when improvised bombs targeted their vehicles in the border town of Rafah, a security official said.

The Anti-Coup Alliance, which rejects Egypt’s military-installed government, had called on protesters in a last-minute statement to avoid marching on Tahrir Square.

The “coup regime is shedding blood without any respect to law or values adopted by our great people” said the coalition, spearheaded by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.

“So the alliance is calling for marchers to avoid places of bloodshed, be it Tahrir or other squares,” said a statement from the group which demands Morsi’s reinstatement.

It said its appeal follows calls by several intellectuals and political forces because marches on Tahrir “will lead to more bloodshed”.

Keeping protest options open

The alliance had repeatedly urged its supporters to march on Friday towards the main symbol of the Arab Spring-inspired uprising that toppled former strongman Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

“We are just limiting our marches” on Friday, the alliance said, adding that it reserves “the right to protest in all squares including Tahrir, Rabaa and Nahda in the coming weeks”.

Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya and Nahda squares were the sites of a brutal crackdown by security forces on Morsi supporters on August 14. Hundreds of people were killed in some of the worst carnage in Egypt’s modern history.

“The decision was taken to calm things down after what happened on October 6,” said Tareq Hussein of the Youth Against Coup group, a member of the alliance.

Last Sunday, fierce clashes erupted when security forces prevented Islamists from trying to reach Tahrir Square where supporters of the military were celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Arab-Israeli war.

At least 48 people were killed as nine more died in similar fighting elsewhere.

“We are just holding our breath after Sunday’s massacre. The challenge to the coup is still on and this is a battle to break the will of the coup,” Hussein told AFP.

The interior ministry warned Islamists that it had deployed security reinforcements in Tahrir Square and streets around it and near the US embassy in central Cairo.

AFP reporters also saw security forces sealing off Nahda Square and Mustafa Mahmoud Square.

At least 77 people have been killed across Egypt since last Friday, making this period the deadliest after the August crackdown.

Since August 14, more than 1,000 people have been killed nationwide, while more than 2,000, mostly Islamists, have been detained.

Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, has been held at an unknown location since the army toppled him.