Hundreds of youths clashed with Egyptian police in Tahrir Square on Friday in a violent start to the second anniversary of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak and led to the election of an Islamist president who is now the focus of protester rage.
Opponents of President Mohamed Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood allies are expected to mass in Tahrir Square later on Friday to revive the demands of a revolution that they say has been betrayed by the Islamists. The square was calm by daybreak, following early morning battles between police and protesters who threw petrol bombs and firecrackers as they tried to approach a wall blocking access to government buildings near the square.
Plumes of teargas fired by the police filled the air. The Health Ministry said 16 people had been wounded. At one point, riot police used one of the incendiaries thrown at them to set ablaze at least two tents erected by the youths, a Reuters witness said. Inspired by Tunisia's uprising against President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Egypt's revolution helped set off more revolts in Libya and Syria. But the sense of common purpose that united Egyptians at the time has given way to conflict that has grown only worse and last month triggered lethal street battles. The anniversary will once again showcase the divide between the Islamists and their secular opponents.
The Brotherhood has decided against mobilizing in the street for the occasion, a decision that could reduce the likelihood of confrontation."Save Egypt from the rule of the Supreme Guide," said another, a reference to leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Badie. Mursi, in a speech on Thursday marking the Prophet Mohammad's birthday, called on Egyptians to mark the anniversary "in a civilized, peaceful way that safeguards our nation, our institutions, our lives".