Middle East

Egyptian army deployed in Suez after anniversary unrest

Protesters near Tahrir Square in Cairo, 25 January 2013
Protests in the capital, Cairo, continued into the night

Egyptian troops have been deployed in Suez and President Mohammed Morsi has appealed for calm after at least seven people died in protests marking the second anniversary of Egypt's uprising.

Six people were killed in Suez and one in Ismailia as police clashed with protesters in several towns and cities.

Critics accuse Mr Morsi of betraying the revolution that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak.

The Islamist president has dismissed the opposition's claims as unfair.

Instead, he has called for a national dialogue, and on Saturday he urged his opponents to refrain from violence.

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In a message on Twitter, he called on Egyptians "to adhere to the values of the revolution [and] express opinions freely and peacefully".

In Suez, which saw the worst of Friday's unrest, soldiers took position outside state buildings. The army said the deployment was temporary and aimed at protecting state institutions.

"We have asked the armed forces to send reinforcements on the ground until we pass this difficult period," Adel Refaat, head of state security in Suez, told state television.

In central Cairo, clashes between demonstrators and police were reported into the early hours of Saturday.

'Economy collapsed'

Some protesters have held sit-ins in the capital, saying they will only return home when Mr Morsi leaves office.

On Friday, two years after the start of the uprising against Mr Mubarak's rule, tens of thousands of people turned out to voice their opposition to Mr Morsi and his supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood.

More than 450 people were injured in unrest in 12 out of 27 of Egypt's provinces, the health ministry said.

It was unclear how the deaths in Suez occurred.

Among other cities that saw clashes were Alexandria and Port Said.

In Ismailia, protesters set fire to the headquarters of the Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The city's governorate headquarters was later also stormed.

Protesters have been using the same chants against Mr Morsi as they employed two years ago against Mr Mubarak.

The liberal opposition accuses Mr Morsi of being autocratic and driving through a new constitution that does not protect adequately freedom of expression or religion.

The government is also being blamed for a deepening economic crisis.

One of the demonstrators at Cairo's Tahrir Square, Momen Asour, said he had come to demand an end to President Morsi's rule. "We have not seen anything, Neither freedom, nor social justice, or any solution to unemployment, or any investment," he said.

"On the contrary, the economy has collapsed."

Another protester, Hamoud Rashid, said the protests were a "natural reaction to the country being in a worse state than it was under Mubarak".

"They have stolen the revolution from the revolutionaries, and we are here to reclaim the revolution," he said.

President Morsi and his allies have dismissed the claim, saying they have a democratic mandate following recent elections. The constitution, drawn up by an Islamist-dominated body, was approved by referendum last month.

Egyptian protester
Anti-government protests in Egypt
Egypt's revolution began on 25 January 2011, the "Day of Revolt", when tens of thousands of marchers occupied Cairo's Tahrir Square to protest against President Hosni Mubarak and his government. Simultaneous protests were held across the country. In the following days, demonstrations became more violent, coming to a climax with running clashes in Cairo between pro- and anti-government demonstrators.
Election celebrations in Egypt
Despite efforts by the authorities to disperse the protesters, they refused to move and set up camp in Tahrir Square. On 4 February, dubbed the "Day of Departure", hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated in Cairo demanding Mr Mubarak leave office. But it took another week for the president to accept his fate. He finally agreed to step aside on 11 February after protesters marched on the Presidential Palace.
Military rulers in Egypt
After Mr Mubarak’s departure, Egypt’s parliament was dissolved and the country’s constitution suspended. The Supreme Council of Egyptian Armed Forces declared it would hold power for six months or until elections could be held. But while major protests subsided, uncertainty about the country’s future meant many protesters continued to return to Tahrir Square, calling for their demands for change to be met.
Egyptian protesters
Tensions soon built between the pro-democracy movement and the new military leadership. Protesters were drawn again to Tahrir Square to press military rulers to keep promises on political reform. Demonstrations turned violent. However, despite the unrest, voting in parliamentary elections took place between November 2011 and January 2012, with the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Freedom and Justice Party taking almost half the share of votes.
Mohammed Mursi supporters
Newly-elected representatives of the People’s Assembly - parliament's lower house - met for the first time in January 2012 and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces transferred legislative authority to them. However, a court later dissolved the assembly amid accusations that it was dominated by Islamists. Despite this, in May, voting began in Egypt’s first free presidential election, with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi declared the winner in June.
Egyptian protester
The Islamist president’s first months in office were marked by political tensions and street protests. One of his first acts was to issue a decree overruling the court decision to dissolve parliament. The move effectively placed a panel tasked with writing the new constitution above judicial review. Amid public outrage, Mr Morsi later rescinded most of his decree, but still pushed ahead with a referendum on the draft constitution, which was approved in December.
Egyptian shop
Opposition groups continue to accuse Mr Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood backers of betraying the goals of the revolution. They want to see radical changes to Egypt's newly-adopted constitution, which they say fails to guarantee personal freedoms and rights for women and minorities. Parliamentary elections in 2013 are likely to set the stage for yet another electoral battle between surging Islamists and their fractious liberal and leftist opponents.