Rival crowds of supporters of Egypt's military and backers of the Islamist president deposed by the army poured into streets around the country Sunday, as a holiday marking the anniversary of the last war with Israel turned into a showdown between the country's two camps.
According to Reuters, several thousand supporters of the military rallied in Cairo's central Tahrir Square, waving Egyptian flags, blowing whistles and touting posters of army chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who ousted President Mohammed Morsi three months ago. In a festive atmosphere, a military band in green jackets and off white pants played, and men spun in whirling dervish-style dances.
At the same time, thousands of Islamist backers of Morsi held marches around the city, shouting slogans against el-Sissi and some of them heading toward Tahrir Square, vowing to force their way into the sprawling plaza. That raised the possibility of violent clashes between the two sides.
Police fired in the air and lobbed tear gas to push back several pro-Morsi marches as they neared Tahrir. Soldiers barricaded entrances to the square with barbed wire and armored personnel vehicles. Metal detectors were installed at the entrances and demonstrators pouring into the square were searched by troops.
"The people have one demand: Remove el-Sissi and the president," protesters chanted, referring to the interim president installed after Morsi's fall.
Violence quickly erupted in southern Egypt, where one Morsi supporter was killed in the town of Dalga. Police opened fire on a march by Islamists after some of the protesters shot at police with birdshot, according to the provincial security chief, Osama Metwali.
Dalga, in southern Minya province, is an Islamist stronghold that security forces raided last month to uproot militants who had driven out local police.
Sunday was the 40th anniversary of Egypt's opening strike against Israel in the 1973 Mideast war, a day that is celebrated every year here as a victory over Israel, though the war itself ended in a stalemate.
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