At least 29 people were killed and over 170 injured in clashes in Egypt today as bomb attacks and rival protests marked the third anniversary of the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.
Thousands of supporters of the military-backed government gathered in high-profile locations including Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square -- the focal point of the 18-day popular revolt.
The people rallying waved Egyptian flags and banners showing army chief Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, whom many urged to run for president. But police dispersed anti-government protesters in Cairo and elsewhere.
The worst violence was directed at supporters of deposed President Mohammed Morsi, who staged dozens of rallies across the country.
Witnesses reported deadly clashes in Minya, Giza, Alexandria and several other governorates, and the health ministry said that 29 people were dead and more than 170 wounded).
There were reports of numerous deaths in Alf Maskan, a neighbourhood in eastern Cairo, though the exact number could not be confirmed.
The Muslim Brotherhood said in a statement that more than 50 people have been killed nationwide, though casualty figures released by the group have often been exaggerated in the past, Al Jazeera reported.
Armed groups also staged three attacks on security forces, the most spectacular of which reportedly brought down a military helicopter in North Sinai.
Two explosions rocked Cairo early on Saturday and a third followed in Suez, targeting a police base.
Activists opposed to both the army and the Brotherhood also tried to lay claim to the streets, with a rally in the Mohandiseen district.
They were chased off, only to re-group several hours later, blocks away from Tahrir, where security forces fired tear gas and live ammunition.
However, the main pro-military event in Tahrir Square was peaceful, protected by a heavy deployment of soldiers and police.
The crowds gathered in the square made little mention of the 2011 uprising that toppled Mubarak and instead they came to celebrate Sisi who deposed Morsi in July.
Army helicopters orbited overhead, dropping Egyptian flags and coupons for free blankets. Crowds arrived throughout the afternoon, many of them chanting “the people demand the execution of the Brotherhood.”
Local media reported that an army helicopter was shot down near the town of Sheikh Zuweid in North Sinai, possibly by a missile. A military spokesman confirmed the helicopter crash, but would not comment on the cause.
The interior ministry confirmed a bombing outside a security barracks in Suez, which injured at least nine people.
And a small explosion at a police building in eastern Cairo injured one person.
The fresh attacks raised fears of further violence a day after four blasts, including a suicide bombing at the police headquarters, killed six persons and wounded nearly 100.
An al-Qaeda-inspired militant group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (Champions of Jerusalem) claimed responsibility for yesterday’s attacks.
Islamist militants have stepped up attacks on security forces in the region since Sisi toppled Morsi in July, with hundreds killed.
Security sources told Ahram Online that at least 300 people were arrested in today’s protests across Egypt.
Thousands of supporters of the interim military-backed government also gathered to celebrate the anniversary of the revolution in Tahrir and other squares around the country.