At least 4 killed in Egypt as Islamists mount bold protests

Reuters

* Muslim Brotherhood supporters challenge security forces

* Four killed in Cairo

* No sign of compromise

By Maggie Fick and Hadeel Al Shalchi

CAIRO, Oct 4 (Reuters) - At least four people died inclashes on Friday as supporters of deposed President MohamedMursi mounted their boldest marches since troops crushed theirprotest camps demanding his reinstatement on Aug. 14.

An Egyptian army vehicle fired live rounds in the directionof Brotherhood supporters who had been pushed back by securityforces when they tried to enter Cairo's Tahrir Square, thesymbolic heart of Egypt's 2011 uprising.

Four people were killed in clashes in two neighbourhoods ofCairo, an interior minister spokesman said in comments publishedby state-run newspaper Al-Ahram late on Friday. All four wereBrotherhood supporters, security sources said.

Major General Sayed Shafiq, assistant interior minister forpublic security, denied any protesters had died in the southerncity of Assiut. Medical and health sources had earlier said four people had been killed in Assiut, without saying which sidethey were on.

In Cairo, onlookers threw rocks at pro-Mursi protesters, whohurled them back. Riot police earlier fired tear gas to pushback the march.

Thousands of protesters headed toward the site in northeastCairo of one of the former Brotherhood protest camps crushed bysecurity forces in August. By late afternoon, protesters hadretreated from the area.

Members of the Brotherhood, which has been banned by courtorder, tried to reach the presidential palace but were turnedback by police.

The state news agency said protesters failed in attempts toreach the defence ministry and a Republican Guard facility.

Fighting also erupted in Egypt's second city Alexandria andtwo Nile Delta cities.

The Brotherhood won every election after a popular uprisingousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011, but became deeplyunpopular under Mursi's rule.

Mursi was accused of trying to give himself sweeping powersand entrenching the Brotherhood - allegations he denies.

Egypt has been gripped by political and economic turmoilsince army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi overthrew Mursi,the country's first freely elected president, on July 3 aftermass protests against his rule.

On Aug. 14, Egypt's military-backed authorities smashed thetwo pro-Mursi sit-ins in Cairo, with hundreds of deaths, andthen declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew.

Many of the Brotherhood's top leaders have been arrestedsince.

"They (the government) want a country without religion,"said protester Rasha al-Malky.

NO RECONCILIATION

Friday's violence came a day after European Union foreignpolicy chief Catherine Ashton held talks in Cairo with topgovernment officials, Sisi, and two Brotherhood politicians andurged both sides to pursue reconciliation.

There was no sign either side was prepared to heed her call.

Sisi has promised that a political road map will lead toelections in the Arab world's most populous nation. TheBrotherhood, which says the military staged a coup, has refusedto take part in the political transition.

Friday's clashes in Cairo broke out as Mursi supporterstried to enter the centre of Tahrir Square, the rallying pointfor hundreds of thousands of protesters during the popularuprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

The protesters chanted slogans calling for the removal ofSisi and waved Egyptian flags.

State news agency MENA said the army fired warning shots andtear gas to prevent Brotherhood supporters from crossing abridge leading into the square.

Protesters wrote graffiti on the wall of a building nearTahrir reading "Egypt is Islamic." Others chanted "You cowardSisi" as tear gas billowed in the air.

Political tensions have decimated investment and tourism, apillar of the economy. Attacks by militant groups based in theSinai Peninsula have risen sharply since Mursi's ouster, withalmost daily operations against soldiers and police.

Two Egyptian soldiers were killed by masked gunmen in adrive-by shooting on Friday morning on a road near the SuezCanal city of Ismailia, security sources said. The city bordersthe Sinai.

Fears are growing that an Islamist insurgency will take holdbeyond the Sinai, which borders Israel and the Gaza Strip. ASinai-based group claimed responsibility for a failed suicidebombing attack on the interior minister in Cairo last month.

On Friday, the Salafi Jihadi militant group warned that anylocal Bedouin leader who cooperated with the Egyptianauthorities would be targeted.

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