Friday, February 8, 2013

Protesters clash with police in street battles across Egypt; opposition defies death fatwas

CAIRO (AP) - Egyptian security forces fired salvos of tear gas at rock-throwing protesters in several northern cities on Friday, as thousands marched in protest against the rule of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and his fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood group.

The street protests came in defiance to hardline Muslim clerics who issued religious edicts this week calling for the killing of opposition leaders.

Carrying Egyptian flags and pictures of slain protesters, demonstrators took to the streets in Cairo, Alexandria, the restive Suez Canal city of Port Said and several Nile Delta cities where the Brotherhood's popularity has been sharply eroding.

"Down with the rule of the Guide," the crowds chanted, referring not to Morsi but to the top leader of the Brotherhood, Mohammed Badie, who critics say is calling the shots for the president from behind the scenes.

In Cairo, protesters gathered at the central Tahrir Square and outside the presidential palace, where clashes turned violent last week and cameras filmed a protester stripped naked and beaten by security forces.

In Kafr el-Sheik, some 180 kilometres (110 miles) north of Cairo, riot police fired tear gas at protesters rallying in front of the office of governor Saad el-Husseini, who is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

In Alexandria, protesters tore down a Brotherhood sign and burned it in front of the group's office while security forces used tear gas to disperse protesters in front of the governor's office. Similarly, in Tanta, also north of Cairo, security forces fired tear gas canisters in clashes with rock-throwing protesters.

Egypt has witnessed a fresh cycle of violence over the past two weeks since the second anniversary of the 2011 uprising that deposed longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Clashes across the country have left scores dead and hundreds injured. Incidents of abduction, torture and the killings of activists have raised concerns of excessive use of force by police, which was one of the main drivers of the 2011 revolt.