Last updated: 15 October, 2013

Egypt’s Muslims mark Eid but stay away from key squares

Muslims across Egypt offered prayers at local mosques early Tuesday to mark Eid al-Adha, as security forces shut down key public squares that have seen mass protests, including Cairo's Tahrir Square.

Muslims across Egypt offered prayers at local mosques Tuesday to mark Eid al-Adha, as security forces shut down key public squares that have seen mass protests, including Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

In the east of the capital, interim president Adly Mansour and army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi led worshippers at an air force mosque, state television said.

Elsewhere in Cairo, security forces closed off access to iconic Tahrir Square, symbol of the 2011 uprising against former strongman Hosni Mubarak, as well as Rabaa al-Adawiya and Al-Nahda squares — the sites of a deadly crackdown on supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi on August 14.

Witnesses and security officials said worshippers also stayed away from Mustafa Mahmud square — one of the biggest in Cairo where Egyptians traditionally gather on Eid, a major public holiday, as devotees mark the prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son when God ordered him to.

This year people chose to pray in and outside a mosque close to the square instead.

Most dawn prayers were held in areas designated by the religious endowment ministry and passed without incident, security officials said.

But later in the day Islamist supporters of Morsi staged small demonstrations in some parts of Cairo, the officials said, adding however that no clashes were reported.

In the Mediterranean city of Alexandria dawn prayers at the Al-Qaid Ibrahim mosque, the scene of clashes between pro- and anti-Morsi groups, also went ahead peacefully, a security official said.

Later in the day pro-Morsi supporters staged a demonstration in Alexandria, and similar protests were also reported in the central province of Minya and in the Nile Delta region, security sources said.

The Anti-Coup Alliance, led by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, had urged its supporters to pray in all the squares and streets of Egypt on Tuesday.

But on Monday state news agency MENA quoted an unnamed security official as saying that the interior ministry would “confront any attempt to disturb Eid celebrations”.

On October 6, crowds of Morsi loyalists had tried to reach Cairo’s Tahrir Square where supporters of the army were celebrating the 40th anniversary of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

But security forces stopped them from reaching the square, and 48 people were killed in the clashes that followed. London-based watchdog Amnesty International says 49 died in the violence.

Morsi’s Islamist supporters have regularly tried to hold demonstrations against the military, but their ability to stage mass protests waned after a crackdown by security forces on August 14.

More than 1,000 people have been killed since August 14 in Cairo, while more than 2,000 people, mostly Islamists, have been detained.

Morsi has been held at a secret location since his ouster by the army on July 3 and is facing trial for inciting the murder of protesters with the first hearing due to be held on November 4.