At least 49 dead in Egypt as throngs commemorate revolution

Is Egypt better now than 3 years ago?
Muslim Brotherhood supporters (background) clash with supporters of the Egyptian government in Cairo on January 25, 2014.

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Story highlights

  • Dozens more are injured in violence throughout the country, state media says
  • Pro-Morsy groups says nine people are killed in one neighborhood alone
  • Military helicopter crashes in Sinai
  • Group claims responsibility for Friday's Cairo bombings

At least 49 people were killed and 247 wounded in violence marking the third anniversary of the January 25 revolution that brought down longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak, Egyptian state media said.

Dozens more people were wounded in clashes throughout the country between anti-government protesters and security forces. The casualty figures came from the Ministry of Health, the state media said.

The Anti-Coup Alliance, which supports deposed President Mohamed Morsy, claimed nine people were dead in one neighborhood alone after fierce confrontations. Those deaths were in the Alfa Maskan neighborhood in East Cairo, the alliance said.

Meanwhile, pro-Morsy protesters have been issuing warnings on social media against using public ambulances. That could complicate tallying a death toll because the health ministry reports only deaths in public hospitals.

East Cairo residents reported intense violence.

"There has been ongoing gunfire for more than three hours," Karim Ennarah, who lives near to the fighting, told CNN. He reported hearing automatic and semi-automatic gunfire. "It's like a war."

The neighborhood is part of the Ain Shams area, where a bomb caused at least one reported injury. The neighborhood is also known for its strong Islamist presence and has featured numerous anti-coup protests and clashes throughout the past months.

The health ministry reported two people were killed in the southern province of Minya, one in Cairo and one in Giza, state media said.

Four people were wounded when unknown gunmen attacked a security camp in Suez with a rocket-propelled grendade, state media are reporting, quoting security officials.

Another was wounded in an explosion in the Cairo suburb of Ain Shams, Egyptian state news outlet Al Ahram online said Saturday.

In the Sinai, a military helicopter crashed and a search is ongoing for its crew, the country's state news agency, EgyNews, said Saturday, citing a military spokesman.

Deadly bombs push Egypt to crisis's edge
Deadly bombs push Egypt to crisis's edge

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Security cam catches explosion in Cairo
Security cam catches explosion in Cairo

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There were no immediate details available about the cause of the crash. The Sinai region, which has a strong presence of militants, has been plagued by sporadic violence.

A day of demonstrations

Demonstrators filled the streets amid the instability ushered in by the military's overthrow last year of the democratically elected Morsy, and the ensuing crackdown by security forces on the Islamist movement that supported him, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Police dispersed a march that retraced the route protesters took to Tahrir Square three years ago. They fired tear gas and bird shots at protesters as soon as they started moving from the meeting point at Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque in Giza, activist Wael Khalil said.

A small number of protesters regrouped outside the Press Syndicate, marking a similar protest in the same spot three years ago.

"We were also small in number back then, but our number got bigger," said a protester Om Ali who came with her teenage daughter and son. They chanted against the military government and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Revolutionary Front, a pro-democracy coalition critical of the Muslim Brotherhood and the government, called for all its members and participants to withdraw from demonstrations, citing police violence.

"Excessive use of force by the police today at the anniversary of the revolution against anyone who attempts to express their opinion is considered a major crime added to the list of crimes by the current authorities," the Front said in a statement posted on its official Facebook page. "At the same time, the authorities protect their supporters in Tahrir Square in which the martyrs' blood had been shed."

The iconic square was filled with banners featuring the picture of army chief and Defense Minister Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, with citizens gathering signatures urging him to run for president. A police march band played to the crowds as military helicopters hovered above it.

El-Sisi said recently that he would run for president if the Egyptian people wanted him to, state media reported.

Claim of responsibility for Friday blasts

A terrorist group claimed responsibility Saturday for four blasts that killed at least six people in and around Cairo on Friday.

The organization Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which the United States has designated a terrorist group, said in a statement that it was targeting Cairo's security headquarters and security forces.

A powerful explosion hit the capital's police headquarters, killing at least four people and wounding more than 50 others, Egyptian authorities said. The blast struck a key symbol of authority in a country that has been shaken by political turmoil and violent unrest in recent years.

It was followed by two smaller explosions near police stations in the Cairo area, one of which killed one person. And later, a fourth explosion outside a movie theater in Giza city, near Cairo, killed one person and injured seven others, state television said.

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has been blamed for carrying out attacks in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula as well as on a security forces headquarters in the town of Mansoura last year.

Islamist extremist groups have threatened to avenge the military coup that removed democratically elected President Mohamed Morsy from power last year.

Opinion: Egypt's revolution on the margins