Deadly Violence In Egypt On Anniversary Of Morsi Ouster

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EGYPT
An Egyptian police officer looks on following a bomb blast in the vicinity of the Ittihadiya palace in the Egyptian capital Cairo, on June 30, 2014. (MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images) | MOHAMED EL-SHAHED via Getty Images
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CAIRO, July 3 (Reuters) - Five men died in Cairo in separate incidents involving a bomb blast and protester clashes with security forces on Thursday, the first anniversary of the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, security sources said.

Thousands of Egyptians opposed to the army's ouster of Mursi last year joined rare protests in cities and towns around the country, witnesses said. Previous protests had much lower turnout after a new law required official approval.

Security was tight in Cairo as armored personnel carriers blocked off the city's central Tahrir Square to head off any possible protests there.

Since Mursi's ouster, his Muslim Brotherhood group was labeled a terrorist organization and thousands of Islamists have been jailed on accusations of terrorism and violence while militant Islamists have stepped up attacks on security forces.


"On July 3, Egyptians will revolt, marking the beginning of the end of the coup, marching from all towns and cities across Egypt to liberty squares in all provinces," an alliance of Mursi's supporters said in a statement late on Wednesday.

Three of Thursday's victims died in clashes that broke out in Cairo between protesters and security forces, security sources said. Unrest was reported both from the upscale district of Mohandiseen and poor areas such as Haram and Materiya

Earlier in the day, two men were killed in a bomb blast in a flat in Kerdasa, a western district of the capital where around 10 policemen were killed in an Islamist mob attack last summer. Security sources said they believed one of the victims was involved in that police killing.


SERIES OF BOMBS

Another explosive device detonated on Thursday in a car in the northeastern district of Abbassiya and three home-made bombs went off near police cars in the central district of Imbaba without causing injuries, the sources added.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the blasts. Cairo has been hit by a spate of small explosions in recent days and two police officers were killed on Monday trying to defuse bombs planted near the presidential palace.

Last week, a series of makeshift bombs exploded at Cairo metro stations, the first in the capital since Sisi was sworn in as president.

Following Mursi's overthrow last July, security services launched a crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood politicians, activists and street protesters, jailing thousands and killing hundreds in clashes and raids.

Since then, some radical Islamist groups have repeatedly targeted police and soldiers in the capital and elsewhere, mostly by planting makeshift bombs.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt has declared a terrorist organization, denies any link to the violence.

The authorities' security dragnet has expanded over the past year to include secular and liberal activists, including many who played leading roles in a 2011 popular revolt that ousted veteran leader Hosni Mubarak after 30 years in power.

A law passed after Mursi's fall has sharply restricted the right to protest. Last month, around 23 activists were arrested over a rally in Cairo against the new law.


RIGHTS CONCERNS

Western governments and rights groups have voiced concern for freedom of expression in Egypt and the security clamp-down has dimmed hopes for democratic evolution in Egypt that had soared after the anti-Mubarak uprising three years ago.

Amnesty International condemned Egypt's human rights record in a statement on Thursday, saying torture, arbitrary arrests and detentions had increased since Mursi's political demise.

"Egypt's notorious state security forces - currently known as National Security - are back and operating at full capacity, employing the same methods of torture and other ill-treatment used during the darkest hours of the Mubarak era," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa program.

The government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who led the army ouster of Mursi, says it is committed to a democratic transition and the rule of law following the 2011 uprising. (Reporting by Shadia Nasralla and Lin Noueihed; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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