CAIRO — Hundreds of supporters of ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi took to the streets Friday to protest the decision by the country’s former military chief to run in upcoming presidential elections, sparking scattered clashes that claimed four lives.
The former military chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi led the ouster of Morsi in July after millions joined demonstrations demanding that he step down. Al-Sissi resigned from the military and made his much-anticipated announcement launching his presidential campaign Wednesday. He is widely expected to win.
Friday’s rallies took place in several cities, including areas in and around the capital of Cairo and in the northern city of Alexandria. Demonstrators attempted to block a main road with burning tires in Cairo that leads to the famed Giza pyramids, and students from the Islamic university of Al-Azhar threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at security forces.
Among those killed was a female journalist, Mayada Ashraf, who died while covering clashes in the eastern Cairo district of Ain Shams.
A 39-year-old protester named Mohammed who was at the scene said Ashraf was steps away from him when she was shot in the head by security forces using live ammunition. He gave only his first name for fear of retribution.
But an Interior Ministry spokesman, Hani Abdel-Latif, blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for Friday’s killings. He said that armed protesters opened fire randomly, killing three, and stabbed a Christian woman to death.
Ashraf works for the privately owned daily El-Dustor newspaper. It reported online that it had urged authorities to halt gunfire in the area to give ambulances a chance to retrieve the body of the slain journalist.
A second news portal that Ashraf contributed to, Masr al-Arabiya, or Arab Egypt, posted a video purportedly showing the journalist with her head scarf soaked in blood as she was being carried away over a protester’s shoulder.
In November, the same journalist told the privately owned ONTV network that she was attacked by protesters while covering Islamist students’ demonstrations.
Authorities arrested dozens of supporters of the former Islamist president Morsi at protests in Cairo, Giza, Mansoura and Minya on Friday, according to security officials.
Dozens of al-Sissi’s supporters also rallied in Alexandria and Cairo on Friday, waving Egyptian flags and raising posters bearing his picture.
In his first interview following his resignation, published Friday in the Egyptian al-Watan and Kuwaiti al-Rai papers, al-Sissi said that he knows there’s a huge responsibility ahead for him. He said he would offer “a practical plan that could be implemented in reality on the short term.”
“The people bore a lot the past few years and it’s time to harvest the fruit of two revolutions,” he said.
Supporters of Morsi and his group, the Muslim Brotherhood, said Thursday that they will continue protests against what they called al-Sissi’s “republic of fear.”
In the Suez Canal city of Port Said, security officials said two unidentified assailants on a motorcycle torched a stand built by locals supporting al-Sissi that was being used to distribute campaign materials.
All of the security officials except Abdel-Latif spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.