By Maggie Michael
Egyptian security forces fire tear gas to disperse supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi as they protest at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Dec. 27, 2013. Armored vehicles closed main squares and city centers in Cairo and other major cities after Morsi’s group, the Muslim Brotherhood, and its allies announced now protests in defiance of the interim government’s latest move labeling the group as a terrorist organization. (AP Photo/Mohamed Hassan) | ASSOCIATED PRESS
CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian security forces fired tear gas and clashed with hundreds of supporters of Mohammed Morsi around the country Friday and arrested more than 100, including women, as authorities tightened security measures in the capital after the ousted president’s Muslim Brotherhood and its allies renewed calls for mass rallies.
Riot police chased student protesters chanting against the military and the police at the Islamic Al-Azhar University. Footage on private TV networks showed demonstrators hurling stones and setting fire on tree branches to defuse tear gas smoke.
The night before, one person was killed when similar clashes broke near the dormitory of the same university. Anti-Morsi civilians also joined the fray in the eastern district of Cairo, fighting against the protesters, according to Egypt’s official news agency.
Clashes also erupted Friday in several other districts of the capital. Al-Jazeera Mubashir Misr TV showed footage of police vehicle on fire in a highway linking Cairo with Giza.
Armored vehicles closed main squares and city centers in Cairo and other major cities after Morsi’s group, the Muslim Brotherhood, and its allies announced new protests in defiance of the interim government’s latest move labeling the group as a terrorist organization. The announcement was meant to further cripple the group ahead of a key vote on draft constitution on Jan. 14 and Jan. 15 seen by the interim government as a milestone in the transition plan.
The Interior Ministry official said in a statement that more than 147 protesters were arrested in different provinces, including 28 women.
At least one person killed in southern city of Minya, according to the governor Salah Ziyada who was speaking to Egyptian CBC TV network.
Since Morsi was ousted in a military coup on July 3 after millions demonstrated demanding his removal, the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies have held constant protests demanding his reinstatement and denouncing the interim government installed by the military in his place.
But their rallies have sharply decreased in numbers because of a heavy-handed crackdown on the group that put thousands in detention and killed hundreds during the violent disbanding of two protest camps in August.
Fridays traditionally witness the largest turnouts of protesters. This Friday poses a test to the Brotherhood’s willingness and ability to continue going head-to-head against the interim government, as well as a new tactic to crack down on protests.
After the government on Wednesday declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organization, a security spokesman said any participants in Brotherhood rallies will be sentenced to five years in prison, and group leaders could be sentenced to death according to anti-terrorism laws.
The terror label came after a suicide bombing Tuesday in a Nile Delta city that killed 16 and wounded 100, mostly policemen. A second blast took place on Thursday in Cairo, hitting a bus and injuring passengers but leaving no major causalities.
The government accused the Brotherhood of being behind the bombing, as well as stepped-up attacks by Islamic militants since Morsi’s ouster, a claim the group denies. An al-Qaida-inspired group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, or the Champions of Jerusalem, claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s suicide attack and vowed more.
The government has provided no strong evidence that links the Brotherhood to militant groups. But during Morsi’s year in power, he allied with radical groups and sent envoys to militant leaders for a truce in the volatile Sinai region in return for halting military offensive.
After Morsi’s ouster, the military launched a major offensive in Sinai against suspected militants, sweeping through hideouts in villages located near the borders with the Gaza Strip and Israel.
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