Egypt marks anniversary of anti-Mubarak uprising; deadly clashes erupt

This post has been updated, as indicated below.

CAIRO -- Egyptians turned out Saturday to mark the third anniversary of the start of their dramatic Arab Spring uprising against Hosni Mubarak -- with pro-government gatherings going undisturbed by police and anti-government marches broken up by police with tear gas and birdshot. Clashes left at least nine people dead, authorities reported.

[Updated 11:25 a.m. PST, Jan. 25.: The Egyptian Ministry of Health later updated the death toll to 29.]

A day after four explosions jolted the capital, killing six people, many Egyptians were anxious about going out into the streets. One small early-morning blast went off near a police training center, but caused no serious injuries or damage.

A militant group that until recently has been active mainly in the Sinai peninsula --  Ansar Bayt Maqdis, or Partisans of Jerusalem -- claimed responsibility for the Cairo attacks Friday.

In tightly guarded Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of the anti-Mubarak uprising, the anniversary brought displays of adulation for Gen. Abdel-Fattah Sisi, the army chief who is being urged by many to run for president. He led the popularly supported coup that deposed Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July.

Many saw the anniversary as a chance to vent renewed anger at Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood, and express support for the interim government, which has promised to hold presidential and parliamentary elections this year.

“The Brotherhood and their associates can try to spread fear all they want,” said Mohamed Salem, a middle-aged insurance company worker on his way to Tahrir Square. “They can try to bomb the whole country, but that will not scare us.”

Close to the square and in several other districts of Cairo, police forcefully broke up marches by Morsi supporters, making dozens of arrests. Similar rallies Friday resulted in 14 deaths nationwide, officials said; double-digit death tolls when security forces clash with Morsi backers are not unusual on Fridays, the main prayer day of the week.

On Thursday, the rights group Amnesty International said 1,400 people had died in political violence during the military-backed government’s seven months in power, most of them supporters of Morsi. The Brotherhood has been designated a terrorist organization, and thousands of its followers are in jail.

The interim government has also moved against some of the secular figures who helped spearhead the 2011 uprising against Mubarak. Those targeted recently have included academics, filmmakers, bloggers, journalists and activists.  

Special correspondent Amro Hassan contributed to this report.

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