Jan 25, 9:06 AM EST

Egypt: Police, protesters clash on anniversary of uprising

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AP Photo/Ahmed Abd El-Gwad
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CAIRO (AP) -- Egypt tightened security in Cairo and other cities Sunday as police moved to break up scattered protests marking the anniversary of the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak, killing three protesters, injuring at least 21 and arresting dozens.

The deaths - two in the Cairo district of Matariyah and one in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria - occurred when police clashed with supporters of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group in both cities, security officials said. Earlier, a firebombing set a city tram ablaze in Alexandria and a gas pipeline blew up in a Nile Delta province, they said.

In Beheira, also in the Delta, two suspected Islamists were killed when a bomb they were placing under a high voltage tower exploded, officials said.

Two police officers were injured by shrapnel when a roadside bomb exploded in an eastern Cairo district and six more were wounded in the Matariyah clashes, according to the security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren't authorized to talk to journalists.

Cairo, a city of some 18 million people, appeared mostly deserted Sunday, with many residents staying home to avoid being caught up in any turmoil. However, the officials and activists said police arrested several dozen protesters, mostly suspected Islamists, across much of Cairo - including areas close to the city's Tahrir square, birthplace of the 2011 uprising.

The protests and the stepped-up security came as activists mourned the death of a female protester shot Saturday in downtown Cairo while taking part in a gathering commemorating the nearly 900 protesters killed in the 2011 revolt.

Activists blame police for the death of Shaimaa el-Sabagh, a 32-year-old mother of one from Alexandria. The government says it is investigating.

Videos posted online show el-Sabagh, a member of the leftist Popular Alliance party, with other protesters carrying placards and chanting "bread, freedom and social justice" - the chief slogan of the 2011 uprising. She and others carried wreaths of flowers they intended to place at nearby Tahrir Square in memory of the fallen protesters.

In the videos, two masked, black-clad police officers point their rifles in her direction before gunshots ring out. The next frame has her on the ground. She is later shown carried by a male protester as blood seeped out of her mouth. The videos are consistent with Associated Press reporting on the shooting.

Hundreds attended her funeral in Alexandria on Sunday without incident.

The prominent Hisham Mubarak Law Center said in a Facebook post that five of el-Sabagh's fellow protesters who had given investigators their account of the incident were themselves charged with assaulting police and taking part in an illegal demonstration.

There was no immediate confirmation from authorities of the group's claim.

El-Sabagh's death is the second of a female protester in recent days. Islamist Sondos Reda was shot dead during a Friday protest in Alexandria. Activists also blame the police.

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's government has shown zero tolerance for street protests since a law adopted in 2013 banned all demonstrations without prior permission. Dozens of activists have been convicted and jailed for violating the law. A parallel crackdown is targeting supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, with thousands from his Muslim Brotherhood group imprisoned or facing trial.

El-Sissi, who led the 2013 military ouster of Morsi, has been focusing on reviving the nation's ailing economy since taking office in May. His public comments have openly dismissed calls for greater freedoms and the end of what activists see as growing police brutality. El-Sissi says his priorities are fixing the economy and battling a simmering Islamist insurgency.

"You can only deal with terrorism when you have free people, not slaves," Elhami el-Mirghani, a senior official in el-Sabagh's political party, told a news conference Sunday. "And this regime is the biggest creator of terrorism."

Sunday's protests were mostly in response to a call for demonstrations made by an Islamist coalition opposed to el-Sissi and led by the Brotherhood.

They came as police sealed off main squares in Cairo, including Tahrir, and beefed up security at vital state installations. The measures followed the discovery over the past two days of at least 30 roadside bombs in Cairo and a string of other cities intended to be detonated Sunday, security officials said.

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